Monday, December 7, 2015

Motorola Moto 360 Watch Review

I purchased the Motorola Moto 360 (1st generation) watch a few months ago when it went on sale at a good price due to the arrival of the second generation Moto 360. The watch that I had been using (U8 Pro) stopped charging and I wanted an Android Wear watch. After a bit of research on the Motorola Moto 360 Android watch (and because of the sale price for the 1st generation), this was the watch I purchased.

You can easily tell the difference between the Moto 360 (first generation) watch with the Moto 360 (second generation watch). The most noticeable difference is that the button on the side of the watch for the first generation is exactly at the 90 degree mark whereas for the second generation, it is at approximately at the 45 degree mark. I don't have the second generation Moto 360 so can't really comment on it but after having the watch for approximately 3 months and having some spare time to devote to my blog writing, I thought that I would write my review/thoughts about the Motorola Moto 360 watch.

The Moto 360 watch's bottom portion of the screen is flat in what is commonly referred to on the internet as a flat tire. You can see this in the picture that I've included from their manual. Motorola calls this a "shelf" and according to them, it is used to hide various sensors including the proximity sensor. According to the reports that I've read, they do plan on eventually removing this "flat tire" but it is evident in both the first generation as well as the second generation Moto 360 watches. Removing the "shelf" according to them would mean a thicker or bigger watch. Personally, this "flat tire" bothered me a little bit at the beginning but after a few months, I don't fixate on it to the point where I even notice it.

One of the first things that I want to cover is battery life since most people will want to know about this. Based on my usage patterns (where the watch face is not illuminated until I receive notifications and I receive quite a few notifications every hour), the battery lasts for over 24 hours. I have never used the watch until the battery was exhausted so I don't know the exact time that it will last but based on my usage and estimate, I would say that it would probably last me approximately 32 to 36 hours or so. Since the watch didn't have any sleep monitoring software built into it (nor did I use it to track my sleep), I charged it every evening when I went to bed so the ~36 hour battery life didn't really inconvenience me.

The Moto 360 first generation watch comes with a wireless charging stand. The charging stand plugs into a standard microUSB charging cable. The watch charges very fast. It will take under 90 minutes to charge it to 100% (from the 20% range). While charging, the watch will display the time as well as what the percentage of charge on the watch.

The watch connects to an Android phone (I've connected it to my LG Nexus-4 and then later connected it to my OnePlus One) via bluetooth and handles the notifications very well. Please note that you can only connect the Moto 360 to one phone at a time and in order to connect it to another phone, it will require a factory reset of the watch. When it is out of Bluetooth range of the Android smartphone, it can also be set up to connect to a wireless network (WPA2-Enterprise is not supported) so that it can still receive notifications.

Set-up of the phone was very straight forward based on the on-screen instructions as well as using Motorola's Moto 360 manual. You can view Motorola's Moto 360 manual *HERE*.

What I like about the Moto 360 watch is that it gives me notifications for email, SMS, phone calls, as well as everything that would normally appear in the Notification bar of my Android device. I found it very convenient to read e-mails and SMS using my watch as opposed to pulling the phone from my pocket. Even though it notified me of phone calls, I found the notifications to be a bit weak so that sometimes I wouldn't notice that I had received a phone call until I looked at my watch.

The other thing I want to talk about is the heart rate sensor on the watch. I wear a Fitbit Charge HR and compared the heart rate results between it and the Moto 360 watch. I found that the Fitbit Charge HR was more accurate during higher intensity workouts than my Moto 360 watch. In terms of the number of steps, I also found that the 2 devices would give different readings. During my tests for short distances, they both had a relatively small difference in the number of steps shown but by the end of the day, the difference between the 2 devices was often times over 1000 steps.

Where applicable, applications which were installed on my Android phone automatically installed the Android Wear component onto the Motorola Moto 360 watch when I first linked/synched the 2 items together.

I've been happy with my Motorola Moto 360 watch so far and don't have any issues recommending this watch to anyone if they want to receive smartphone notifications on their watch.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Blackberry Priv Initial Thoughts

I haven't written a blog entry for quite awhile and thought that I would try to restart my blog entries with the newest smartphone that I tried which is the Blackberry Priv. This will be one blog entry among many regarding my thoughts/feelings about the Blackberry Priv as I continue to use it.

In terms of the specifications for the phone, I will summarize it briefly (all of this taken from Blackberry's website *HERE*) but it has a 5.4" diagonal screen size at a 16:9 aspect ration. The resolution is 2560 x 1440 with 24-bit color depth at 540PPI. It has an 18MP autofocus rear camera capable of 4K recordings at 30fps or HD 1080p recordings at 60fps and a 2 MP front camera capable of 720p HD video recording. The version that I have/tested PRIV-1 (US model) comes with wireless charging (the Canadian model PRIV-3) does not come with wireless charging. For the processor specs, the Blackberry Priv comes with a Qualcomm 8992 Snapdragon 808 Hexa-Core, 64 bit Adreno 418, 600MHz GPU. For the memory, it comes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of Flash memory. It also supports expandable memory via the microSD slot (up to 2 TB). For the SIM card size, it uses the nanoSIM card format.

In terms of what makes this phone unique, it is that it is a Blackberry running Android OS and not the proprietary OS that Blackberry makes which is Blackberry 10. Out of the box, the version of Android is 5.1.1. For Android lovers, what makes this phone unique is that it has a built-in sliding keyboard and that has some PRIVacy features built into the phone.

I am one of the unique people who will generally carry around both a Blackberry phone and an Android phone at the same time. Prior to getting my hands on the Blackberry Priv, the phones that I would have with me were my Blackberry Passport and my OnePlus One (or my LG Nexus-4). In terms of Blackberry devices, I've had/used a Blackberry Bold 9700, a Blackberry Q10, and a Blackberry Passport. In terms of Android devices, I've had/used a Sony Ericsson X10 Mini, a Samsung Nexus-S, an LG Nexus-4, and a OnePlus One. I would generally swap between Android devices but keep my Blackberry phone with me since I generally type out very long e-mails and I've just never gotten comfortable using the onscreen keyboards from the various different phones.

In terms of the "flavour" of Android on the Blackberry Priv, it looks/feels like Google stock Android except for a few applications like Yahoo Finance, Blackberry Hub, BBM, and DTEK. The Blackberry Priv also uses Blackberry's own version of Calendar and Contacts.

You can see Blackberry's video introducing the Blackberry Priv on the YouTube video below:

You can also see Blackberry's very nice & artistic promotional video on their Blackberry Priv below.

When I first opened the box and configured the Blackberry Priv, I tested using the transfer of information from my LG Nexus-4 to my Blackberry Priv using NFC but because I had a lot of Android apps on my LG Nexus-4, I stopped it midway while it was downloading my Android apps onto the phone. However, prior to doing this, I noticed that the phone was somewhat hot. Up until that point, my phone was downloading a lot of Android apps from the Google Play store via WiFi after I used the NFC connection/configuration option for the initial configuration.

I decided to do a factory reset of the Blackberry Priv and this time instead of using the NFC connection, I selected my OnePlus One as the phone to base my Blackberry Priv's installation and then I manually selected the applications from the list of applications which were installed on my OnePlus One. After doing this, I later decided that it would probably be better for me to do a factory reset again and this time configure the device as a brand new device and then manually go into the Google Play store in order to download the apps that I wanted. This was my final set-up for the Blackberry Priv and was the starting point that I decided to keep.

After installing a few of the Google apps that I was sure that I wanted on the device (ex: Netflix, Bell TV, NFB, Kodi, TMN Go, Crave TV, and the Amazon Apps Store), I powered off my Blackberry Priv and decided to let it charge to 100%.

When the battery was at 100%, I powered my Blackberry Priv back on and tested out Netflix and it worked very well. I watched an entire 30 minute television episode and the earlier issue that I had with my Blackberry Priv getting unusually hot when I was initially installing applications on it was not as noticeable but I still noticed the phone being warmer than it was initially prior to me streaming the video. I then tested out YouTube and this also worked very well.

In terms of the keyboard on the Blackberry Priv, after having used my Blackberry Passport keyboard for ~1 year, I found the keys on the Blackberry Priv to be somewhat small but I didn't have any problems typing with the Blackberry Priv's keyboard. I liked being able to access the numbers via the physical keyboard as I had done with my Blackberry Bold 9700 or my Blackberry Q10. I also liked that just like on the Blackberry Passport, the Blackberry Priv's keyboard is touch sensitive and can be used like a trackpad. You can use it to scroll through webpages or scroll through documents or even the Android's home screen. In terms of using the keyboard, I did find that because of the sliding nature of the keyboard with the shape/size of the phone, it was a bit "top heavy" but it wasn't uncomfortable for me to type a relatively long e-mail to a colleague.

The screen is slightly curved (it has curved sides) and although this looks very nice, as someone who likes to put a "tempered glass screen protector" on most devices, I think it will be difficult to find a tempered glass screen protector that either covers the entire screen (including the curved edges) or the tempered glass will be more expensive than typical tempered glass smartphone screen protectors that have a completely flat screen.

I've only been using the Blackberry Priv for under 1 week while I wait for my orders of a microSD card, a nanoSIM card (to replace the microSIM card that I was using in my OnePlus One or my LG Nexus-4), a tempered glass screen protector, and a case to arrive (before I fully switch over). So far, during the week that I've had the Blackberry Priv, I've been enjoying it. The Android apps that I enjoy using work seamlessly on the Blackberry Priv. I like having a physical keyboard that I can use to type out long emails. If I don't want to use the physical keyboard, I can also use the onscreen virtual keyboard when it is more convenient.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Blackberry 10 Software Update Available for

There was a somewhat major software update on Blackberry 10 devices last week. The update brought Blackberry 10 devices all to v10.3.1.1565. I was using a Blackberry Passport so the update for my Blackberry was not as large as for other Blackberry 10 devices such as the Z10, Q10, & Z30. The update was "only" 470MB on my Blackberry Passport which was previously running Most of the other Blackberry 10 devices (if they were running official releases of the OS) were running a variant of 10.2.1.

The update for v10.3.1.1565 was very straightforward. Since my Blackberry Passport was already running v10.3.0, I was already used to to some of the features that comes with the v10.3.1.1565 update such as the Amazon Appstore, Blackberry Blend, and Blackberry Assistant.

The update recommends keeping the device plugged into a power source during the update but because I didn't have my AC adapter with me and my Blackberry Passport was fully charged (it was above 95%), I started the update process without plugging in my device to a power source. This didn't present any issues. The downloading/installation took ~1.5 hours.

The update process was straightforward and after accepting the update, I was presented with the screenshot below asking me to restart the device.

After my device restarted, my Blackberry Passport continued to apply the update without any issues. The restarting of my Blackberry Passport took ~20 minutes.

After my Blackberry Passport restarted, I verified the Settings and it was updated to

In terms of the update, I've been using it for approximately one week now and I don't notice anything significant since I was already using 10.3.0 prior to the update to 10.3.1. What I did notice was that the unlock screen font is larger and I also noticed that the Systems Settings changed somewhat.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Resetting Blackberry Q10 to Factory Defaults

I decided to sell one of my Blackberry Q10 phones that I had since getting my Blackberry Passport and having a spare Blackberry Q10 as a backup "keyboard" phone. I had used my Blackberry Q10 phone for approximately 1.5 years before opting to sell it and the internal memory on the device was almost completely used (~14.5GB of 16GB). I also had a 2GB microSD memory card in the device.

I generally encrypt my devices and with my Blackberry Q10 (and the 2GB microSD memory card inside it), I encrypted both as well. Before selling my device, I needed to reinitialize it back to factory defaults.

The first step to doing this since I wanted to keep the information on the microSD memory card was to unencrypt the microSD card. Forgetting this step would mean that the information on the microSD card would be permanently encrypted. To unencrypt the microSD memory card, I went into the Settings menu, Encryption, and then turned off the Media Card encryption. My microSD memory card was not completely filled (and it was only a 2GB microSD memory card on top of that and not a 32GB memory card) so the amount of time that it took me to unencrypt the memory card was not too long. After the memory card was unencrypted so that I wouldn't forget it in the phone when I sold it, I ejected it from my Blackberry Q10.

The next thing that I did was to issue the command to reinitialize my Blackberry Q10. As mentioned, I used my Blackberry Q10 for approximately 1.5 years and the amount of free memory on the device was a little over 1GB (and my Blackberry Q10 was encrypted). I wasn't sure how long it would take so I kept my Blackberry Q10 plugged into the electrical outlet and initiated the reinitialization process.

It took roughly 7 hours for my Blackberry Q10 to reinitialize itself. During that time, the Blackberry Q10 was completely unusable and I was somewhat worried since for a large portion of that time, it appeared as if wasn't doing anything. About 2 hours into the reinitialization process, since I wasn't sure how long it would take, I decided that I would go to bed and hopefully it would be done by the time I woke up. However, it wasn't finished by the time I woke up. I then decided to unplug the Blackberry Q10 from the AC outlet and bring it with me to work. When I arrived at work, I looked at the Blackberry Q10 screen and it had finished reinitializing itself. The total amount of time between when I started the reinitialization process of my Blackberry Q10 and when I looked at my Blackberry Q10 was ~7 hours so I was lucky that I had decided not to reinitialize it in front of the seller or start the reinitialization process at work since I was meeting the buyer during my lunch.

One of the reasons it might have taken ~7 hours to reinitialize my Blackberrry Q10 to factory defaults is because my Blackberry Q10 was encrypted and only ~1GB of free memory (out of ~16GB) existed on the device.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether it is embedded or not) will automatically be labelled as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fitbit Charge HR Review

I was interested in a fitness band and because I had the Fitbit Aria scale, I was split between one of the higher end Fitbit fitness bands (Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Charge HR, or Fitbit Surge) for easy integration with my Fitbit account. The only product that was available in Canada was the Fitbit Charge. I wanted something to monitor my heart rate so I was mainly interested in either the Fitbit Charge HR or the Fitbit Surge.

During my recent trip to the US, I saw a Fitbit Charge HR so I decided to buy it rather than wait for it to become available in Canada. I've been using it for ~2 weeks since coming back from the US and I thought that I would write a review on the product.

Some of the features of the Fitbit Charge HR include the ability to monitor your heart rate, monitor your sleep, track your distance, monitor your calories, caller ID, and silent alarm. I use the product mainly for the heart rate feature, the pedometer feature (as well as the number of floors climbed), and the sleep monitor.

You can download a PDF manual for the Charge HR either from Fitbit's website or you can also download it directly from my blog *HERE* (which saves you from having to look for it).

Installation of the Fitbit Charge HR was pretty straightforward. It involved inserting a USB dongle which came with the product into a USB port on my computer and downloading/installing the application program. In my case, after installing the Windows program, it detected my Fitbit Charge HR which was nearby and updated the firmware on the fitness band. After setting up the software on my computer, I rarely ever perform a synchronization using the USB dongle and my computer. I will perform the synchronizations using the Fitbit application on my Android smartphone.

Everything for the Fitbit Charge HR is configured on the Fitbit website. I configured the unit of measurement for metric and the time was set based on the 24 hour display that I prefer. 

The Fitbit Charge HR is what I would classify as being water resistant but not really water proof. The manual suggests not using it when swimming nor using it when taking a shower but also mentions that it is capable of getting wet either from rain or from the sweatiest workout.

It isn't necessary to tightly place the Fitbit Charge HR on your wrist. I have it in place on my wrist not really loose but not tight enough to cause any marks on my wrist. In terms of the accuracy of the heart rate readings, I find it to be relatively accurate bearing in mind that it is not really a medical instrument. When I work out, I have noticed that sometimes it will take a longer time to calculate/display my heart rate. I have the heart rate monitoring set for automatic continuous monitoring. The Fitbit Charge HR monitors heart rate by using shining a light on the skin and detecting the change in light patterns.

I believe that the pedometer (number of steps) feature is very accurate. It is more accurate than my U8 Pro Smartwatch. Of course, you can increase the number of steps taken by shaking/moving the fitness band in a certain way but I find the Fitbit Charge HR to work well even when I have my hands in my winter coat pocket while I'm walking. I tested this by counting 25 steps and then checked the Fitbit Charge HR and it correctly displayed 25 steps whereas my U8 Pro Smartwatch displayed 27 steps.

What I find really amazing is the sleep monitoring capabilities of the Fitbit Charge HR. My U8 Pro Smartwatch also "monitored" sleep patterns but with this smartwatch, sometimes it will say that I'm asleep when I'm sitting in front of my computer at work, typing for a few hours. With the Fitbit Charge HR, there are 2 settings for the sleep monitoring (normal & sensitive). I set mine on "sensitive" and I'm amazed that it actually knows when I'm in bed and it also knows when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes in the morning, I will remove my Fitbit Charge HR and charge it and even though the Fitbit Charge HR is not moving, it will know that I'm not asleep which I find amazing. In certain cases, you might want to modify your actual sleep period and you can do so via your Fitbit account on their website.

The battery life of the product mentions that you can 5+ days of usage before recharging. During my tests and my usage pattern, I have only gotten 4-5 days before needing to recharge it. Recharging is done via a proprietary USB cable which is plugged into the back of the fitness/activity band. Depending on the current battery level, recharging can take up to 2 hours. I tested this when I received a battery low warning on my Fitbit account on the Fitbit website, my Fitbit application on my smartphone, as well as a warning on the Fitbit Charge HR itself and it does fully recharge in 2 hours.

The Fitbit Charge HR mentions that it will display the phone number or the callerID information on the display (and vibrate) when someone calls your smartphone. I've tested this feature and it does work but because it requires the Fitbit application on the smartphone to relay the callerID information, it doesn't instantaneously notify you of the call. Your smartphone might ring 1-3 times before the Fitbit Charge HR notifies you that you are receiving a call. This delay can in some cases make you miss your call. I believe that the reason for this "limitation" is that it is not constantly connected via bluetooth to the smartphone but connects via bluetooth when necessary (either when the Fitbit Charge HR is syncing information to the smartphone or when the smartphone is relaying the callerID information from the smartphone to the Fitbit Charge HR). This is unlike my U8 Pro smartwatch which displays the callerID information almost instantaneously but it requires a constant bluetooth connection to my smartphone. The Fitbit Charge HR will only display the callerID information and does not work as a bluetooth/wireless speakerphone (unlike my U8 Pro smartwatch which displays the callerID information and works as a bluetooth wireless speakerphone).

One other feature that I use is the silent alarm feature which I wanted to mention. The fitness/activity band can be set to vibrate at a certain time in order to wake you up without disturbing anyone else. I find the vibration to be strong enough to wake me up from a restful sleep.

The one negative that I can say about the Fitbit Charge HR is that it uses a proprietary USB charging cable. I personally would have preferred it if the product used a standard USB cable where the end that plugs into the Fitbit Charge HR is a standard microUSB cable. One other thing that I personally don't like is that it is a bit difficult to remove the Fitbit Charge HR from one's wrist because the loop where the excess band goes underneath/through has a "piece" that "locks" into one of the holes used when strapping the fitness/activity band to your wrist. In order to remove the excess band from the loop, one must life the loop slightly to ensure that the "piece" isn't in the wristband's holes and then you will be able to easily slide the excess band through the loop and remove the band (similar to what you would do with a watch). I would have preferred that this loop be similar to the ones found on watches without the extra "piece" that "locks" (or goes) into one of the holes on the wristband.

After using the product for approximately 2 weeks, I don't have any issues recommending the Fitbit Charge HR. I find that it works very well and is very comfortable and provides a lot of useful information.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Blackberry Passport Review

I received my Blackberry Passport ~1 month ago and I've been using it since that time so I thought that now was the perfect time for me to write my thoughts on the Blackberry Passport.

As shown in my other blog entries, I use a wide variety of phones (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.). In terms of Blackberry phones, I've used a Blackberry Bold 9700, a Blackberry Q10, and now a Blackberry Passport.

I won't go into the Blackberry 10 OS but the Blackberry Passport ships with Blackberry OS 10.3.x and includes the Amazon AppStore. This review blog will mainly be my thoughts on the Blackberry Passport when I compare it with my old Blackberry Q10.

With lots of phone manufacturers making phablets, the size and shape of the Blackberry Passport takes some time to get used to. It is about the same size as a Canadian Passport (although obviously thicker).

I find that the Blackberry Passport is speedier and more responsive than my older Blackberry Q10. What I like about the Blackberry Passport is the larger screen size and the additional memory that the phone ships with. I also like the fact that the Blackberry 10 browser renders webpages very well.

In terms of what I'm not crazy about when it comes to the Blackberry Passport, one of the things that I'm still trying to get used to is that there aren't any physical keys for the numbers and you must use the onscreen numeric keyboard when you want to type numbers. This is not really a big deal except that I've discovered an app that doesn't show the onscreen numeric keyboard (it is possible that there are other apps as well) so it isn't possible to type a number when using this app.

The physical keys also don't feel like the keys on my old Blackberry Bold 9700 nor do they feel like the keys on my Blackberry Q10. Personally, I find that the Blackberry Passport keys feel a bit "cheaper" compared to the other 2 models that I mentioned but others might have a different opinion. However, the Blackberry Passport's keyboard has "trackpad" functionality. It is difficult for me to explain this but by moving your finger over the keyboard, you can control the cursor and depending on the finger gesture on the keyboard, you can also delete words that you've typed very easily.

Currently a lot of the apps (both from Blackberry App Store as well as Android applications) don't appear perfectly on the Blackberry Passport. Even programs that show up correctly on the Blackberry Q10 sometimes don't appear perfectly on the Blackberry Passport. At the time of this writing there are also quite a few apps that I installed on my Blackberry Q10 which are listed as incompatible on the Blackberry Passport.

The Blackberry Passport uses the newer nanoSIM (my Blackberry Bold 9700 used a standard miniSIM & my Blackberry Q10 used a microSIM). I know that phone manufacturers like to use smaller footprints whenever possible and using a smaller SIM card is part of this philosophy but personally I would prefer that they stick with the microSIM sized SIM.

As mentioned, the Blackberry Passport ships with Blackberry 10.3.x and one of the benefits of Blackberry 10.3.x is Blackberry Blend which allows people to access their Blackberry Hub from their computers or certain tablets using the Blackberry Blend program. This is great if you forget your Blackberry at home and want to access BBM to send/receive messages. Another benefit with Blackberry Blend is that I can keep my Blackberry Passport in my vest pocket and send/reply to BBM messages as well as access my Blackberry's e-mails without constantly having to remove my Blackberry Passport from my pocket.

For the Blackberry Passport User Guide, you can get it from Blackberry's site or you can get it *HERE*. If you're interested in the Discover Blackberry Passport The Guide to Working Wide, you can download it *HERE*.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether it is embedded or not) will automatically be labelled as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Truphone Mobile SIM Service Review

Since I'm currently in the US on vacation, I thought that I would write about my experience with the Truphone Mobile SIM. I purchased a Truphone mobile SIM after reading that Lycamobile was changing their airtime balance extension/rollover policy such that regardless of the date of the last billable charge, the airtime balance would expire 90 days after the top-up. Since I go to the US regularly but don't go there often enough to exhaust $10 worth of airtime in a period of 90 days, I opted to search for another US prepaid SIM card. I search led me to Truphone.

What I like about Truphone is that the airtime balance will rollover as long as you have a billable charge in the last 180 days. For me, this was perfect.

In my opinion, here are the pluses of Truphone:
1) The airtime balance will only expire if you don't have a billable charge in 180 days. As long as you have a billable charge, the balance will rollover for 180 days.
2) The Truphone SIM roams in other countries (at higher rates). What this means is that if I don't go to the US within 180 days, I can still make a billable charge on my account and have the remaining balance rollover for 180 days.
3) Truphone allows "unlimited" free incoming calls while in the Truphone countries. Currently these countries are: the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Germany, or Hong Kong. I'm sure that the "unlimited" has a fair usage policy.
4) Truphone allows "unlimited" free SMS anywhere in the world.
5) Truphone charges the same rates for all the Truphone countries which can be substantially lower than other travel SIM cards (or local SIM cards)
6) Customers get a US phone number. They can opt for 2 additional Truphone country phone numbers tied to the account but this would involve monthly charges
7) The Truphone SIM uses both the AT&T network as well as the T-Mobile network.
8) They use direct dialing so there is no need to remember any special codes to get a preferential rate.
9) The activity log on their website for the account not only shows the phone numbers for the outgoing calls but it also shows the phone numbers for the incoming calls which I find very unusual.
10) The phone offers data (but in my opinion it is expensive)

The minuses with Truphone (in my opinion) are:
1) The number of rings can't be increased. I timed it and it is under/roughly 15 seconds. I'm not sure about most people but it will take me a few seconds to realize that my cellphone is ringing/vibrating when it is in my pocket when I'm walking and there is background noise. It will then take me a few seconds to get the phone out of my pocket and look at the display to see if I want to answer. By the time I do all of this, a lot of the time, the caller has been sent to voice mail.
2) You can't remove/disable voice mail from the account but you can contact customer service so that you don't have a voice mail box. Does this sound confusing? What I mean by this is that when someone calls your Truphone number, if they reach the maximum number of rings (~15 seconds), they will get a message and it will count against them as a completed call where they were routed to the carrier's system message. With some other carriers, if the caller reaches the maximum number of rings and they get the system message, it isn't counted against the caller as a completed call.
3) The startup cost to become a Truphone customer is somewhat high when purchasing the SIM card (~$30). However, they give you $15 worth of airtime credit so in effect, the SIM card really only costs $15. However, even at $15 for the SIM card, I still find it somewhat expensive.
4) The rate for Truphone is higher than a lot of other MVNOs. At the time of my blog review, they charged $0.09US/minute to make an outgoing call to a Truphone country. They also charged $0.09 per outgoing SMS to a Truphone country.
5) The rate to call Canada while in the US with Truphone is $0.27/minute (which I consider to be high for an MVNO).
6) Data is available for Truphone users but it is expensive ($0.09/MB which would be $45 per 500MB).

I used my Truphone for ~1 week while on vacation in the US and didn't have any issues with reception or sound quality. In fact, I would say that it functioned "better" than my Lycamobile SIM (which I also had with me) because in the area that I was visiting in the US, AT&T has better coverage than T-Mobile.

Depending on your roaming and traveling needs, you can check out their rates *HERE*. For example, to use the phone in Canada, it will cost $0.40/minute (incoming/outgoing) and $0.45 per outgoing SMS. While in Italy, to use the phone, it will cost $0.25/minute for outgoing calls, $0.08/minute for incoming calls, and $0.09 per outgoing SMS. The rates that I've mentioned above depend on what country you are calling.

I have no issues recommending Truphone for travelers to the US as well as any of the other Truphone countries.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fitbit Aria WiFi Smart Scale Review

As part of my New Year's Resolution, I decided to try to be healthier and lose a bit of weight. One of the things that caught my eye when it went on sale was the Fitbit Aria WiFi Smart Scale.

Prior to purchasing it, I did a bit of research on the scale and the reviews for the most part were positive. The only 2 negative things that I read about the device was the price and the accuracy of the percentage body fat. There were a few WiFi scales that I saw but since I was planning on getting one of the Fitbit wristbands at a future date and the Fitbit Aria scale was on sale, I decided to purchase it.

I've been using the scale for approximately 3 weeks and my thoughts on it are positive.

One of the things that I like about it is that it uses four (4) AA batteries. My previous scale (a basic scale) used a single 9V battery which I wasn't very crazy about because when I used rechargeable 9V batteries in it, it would not last very long (oftentimes less than 1 month). With the Fitbit Aria WiFi Smart Scale, it came with four alkaline AA batteries but I tried four rechargeable NiMH batteries and they worked without any issues. The rechargeable batteries also last and since I have multiple NiMH rechargeable AA batteries, it isn't an issue for me to recharge/replace them regularly. I really like that when the battery is low, the device can be configured to send an e-mail and/or notify you via the Fitbit application on your smartphone. You can also monitor the battery life by logging onto your Fitbit account online or checking the Fitbit application on your smartphone.

Set-up of the scale was simple. I used my Android tablet to set it up which involved me first connecting my Android tablet to my wireless router and going to the website: on my Android tablet. I basically followed the instructions on the web, giving my scale a name and then removing one of the batteries, waiting a few seconds, and then reinserting the battery in order to get the scale to display "Setup Active". At this point, I changed the wireless connection on my Android tablet so that it connected directly to the Fitbit Aria scale. The rest of the instructions after this were just as straightforward.

After setting up the scale, I created a Fitbit account for myself as well as my family members. During set-up, the scale was under 10 feet from my wireless router but after the scale was set up, I moved the scale to my washroom which is ~25 feet away from my wireless router (and the direct route between the router and the scale goes through a wall in the house). With this set-up, the scale has no issues connecting to my router and uploading/synchronizing the weight and percentage body fat onto my Fitbit account.

I can't speak about the accuracy of the percentage body fat since there are only 2 settings or body types when configuring your Fitbit account (Regular or Lean). I use the percentage of body fat measurement as a gauge and use it to compare the values that I obtain on a regular basis. The scale measures percentage of body fat by sending a small safe signal through the body and measures the impedance. Because of this, there is a warning about not using the scale if you have a pacemaker or other internal medical device, or are pregnant. In order for the percentage body fat measurement to work, the person on the scale must be barefoot when standing on the scale.

The scale remembers up to 8 people and will accurately synchronize the measurements to the proper person's Fitbit account provided that the weight is significantly different between the 8 people. If the weight isn't significantly different or the scale can't determine which account to synchronize the measurements to, it is very easy to change/pick the correct person.

You can download/view the manual *HERE*.

One of the things that I don't really like about the scale is that in order to properly log/record the weight of a person, this person must have a Fitbit account and email address. Not everyone in my family has an e-mail address so I had to manually create an account for the people in my family who didn't have an e-mail address and then create a Fitbit account for them. I would have liked to have a "family" option where all measurements appear under 1 Fitbit account without having to create a Fitbit account for each individual person in the household.

Whether I would recommend this device or not, I would recommend it based on the convenience of use and the instantaneous recording of your weight. However, if price is an issue, you can accomplish this with a regular scale, a piece of paper, and a pen/pencil and then manually entering the information into a fitness website like Fitbit.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, January 12, 2015

DSTE Pro Battery Grip (Battery Grip D5100+) for Nikon D5100, D5200, & D5300 Review

I purchased the DSTE Pro Battery Grip for the Nikon D5100 DSLR camera a few months after purchasing my Nikon D5300 even though I had a Meike Battery Grip (which I had purchased for my Nikon D5100 but works fine in my new Nikon D5300).

One of the reasons I purchased this new DSTE Pro Battery Grip (also called the Battery Grip D5100+) is that it supposedly supported using AA batteries in addition to using EN-EN14 batteries. Because the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D5300 will reject generic/no-name EN-EL14 batteries that don't have a chip on them, I was skeptical that using AA batteries would work in my Nikon D5300 with the DSTE Pro Battery Grip.

When I received my DSTE Pro Battery Grip, I tried it on my Nikon D5300 and found that it worked without any issues. Since the Nikon D5300 is not exactly the same size as the Nikon D5100 which this battery grip is advertised for, the fit is not 100% on my Nikon D5300 (but I would say that it was very close). Still, I find that this battery grip fit my Nikon D5300 very well and the extra spacing is minimal.

The battery grip comes with 2 battery trays which fit through the side of the battery grip. One battery tray supports two (2) EN-EL14 batteries and the other battery tray supports/uses six (6) AA batteries.

I tested using six NiMH rechargeable batteries and I took over 600 photos during a photo session where I used my Nikon SB-910 external flash/speedlight with my Nikon D5300 so the AA batteries weren't powering the camera's flash. I don't know the exact limit of the number of pictures that I could have taken with the six AA NiMH rechargeable batteries since the photo session ended.

Unlike with the Meike Battery Grip where the EN-EL14 fits into the battery grip directly, with the DSTE Pro Battery Grip, the two EN-EL14 drops/fits into a battery tray and this tray is inserted into the side of the battery grip. The Nikon D5300 camera powers up and behaved normally with either the two EN-EL14 tray inserted or the six AA tray inserted (with batteries in the respective trays of course).

The box/unit also came with a remote control but since the Nikon D5300 supports WiFi and I can take pictures using my Android smartphone/tablet, I have never used the remote control that came with it.

Just like the Meike Battery Grip, in order to use the button on the battery grip to shoot pictures, you will need to use the included cable to connect the battery grip to the side of the camera.

Although this battery grip is a bit more expensive than the Meike Battery Grip, for the additional functionality of using AA batteries, I find that it is well worth the higher price and I really recommend them. Since AA batteries are very easy to find/buy, having the ability to use AA batteries is great just in case you think that your EN-EL14 batteries are fully charged and they are not or the EN-EL14 batteries you have no longer maintain their charge.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and an comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Android 5.0.1 Available for the LG Nexus-4

With the annoying problem that I was having with my LG Nexus-4 after the upgrade to Android 5.0 (Lollipop), I was glad to have received the prompt informing me that Android 5.0.1 was available for my device. I was hoping that it would fix the annoying problem where after a few hours of non-use (typically after I woke up), my Nexus-4 would be in a frozen like state where I could not turn on the phone or power on the screen using the power button.

The update took about 1 hour for me to download and apply. As mentioned in my earlier post *HERE* my LG Nexus-4 is encrypted so the upgrade time might be shorter on a non-encrypted Android device.

After applying the update and rebooting, my phone appeared to behave normally but the big test would come after leaving my phone unattended for a few hours to see it would become frozen again. As mentioned in my earlier blog post, my LG Nexus-4 never froze prior to me installing Lollipop on it. The morning after I updated my Nexus-4 to Android 5.0.1, my phone was not frozen and I was able to quickly turn on the screen by pushing the power button. I thought that the annoying frozen issue that I experienced was fixed with the Android 5.0.1 update. However, after using my phone for a few days now with Android 5.0.1, the frozen issue has not really gone away. It still appears to happen randomly overnight were sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I'm able to turn on the screen quickly by pushing the power button while other times, my phone is in a frozen-like state where I have to hold the power button to forcibly turn it off and then wait a few seconds before pushing the power button again to power on the phone.

I spoke with a friend who also has an LG Nexus-4 and he informed me hasn't frozen up on him even after he updated to Lollipop which makes us believe that it might be an incompatible app on my Nexus-4. However, currently, I don't really feel like reinitializing my phone back to factory defaults and then reinstalling my Android applications one at a time. When I fully migrate/use my OnePlus One and retire my Nexus-4 to a "testing" phone, I'll probably be more likely to reinitialize my Nexus-4. In the meanwhile, I'm alternating between my OnePlus One and my LG Nexus-4 when I need/use an Android phone.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.