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.