Non-flagship phones are good phones…

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large4-M400N-Black

LG Stylus 3 M400N   http://lg.com.hk_en

Most people are excited about a new flagship launch, Samsung S8, Apple iPhone 7, …for me a bang-for-the-buck accountant I get excited with budget phones that are true value for money. The allure of “trendy” eludes me because my pocket is not deep, and I don’t live in a sea of debts.

redmi_note_3_gold_all_sides

Redmi Note 3

I bought the Redmi Note 3 in 2016 for a meager HK$1,499 (US$ 200), and I have been liking it since. I am getting an exceptional good product that have features and hardwares comparable to a flagship’s. I have finger sensor on the phone, which is a delight to use. It can be programmed to recognize both left and right fingers. It is a snappy phone, with true 1080p display. The only problem I have is the LTE bandwidth frequency which is not compatible with FIDO in Canada. (A great site to check for compatibility https://www.frequencycheck.com/countries.) Honestly, this is more than a technical nuance: 4G vs 4G Lte.

Although I am satisfy with the Redmi, I also like new gadgets. One day I was web-browsing and I saw the new LG Stylus 3 selling at a special price HK$1,698. After doing a specs check, I concluded that I needed to have this phone. The main reason is for the stylus, it is more convenient if you use handwriting inputs for Asian languages: Chinese, Japanese, etc. Sure, you can do that without, but with the stylus it is more accurate.

Of course, being a phone of a certain niche and at the lower-end compares to the new flagship LG G6, I will have to sacrifice some features: 720p display and only one option of a 16GB internal SD. So how I’d give up a 1080p & 32 GB Redmi?

In a small screen 1080p and 720p is hardly noticeable. True, the colors are more saturated with a 1080p or 2K screen, but human eyes will adapt quickly.  An inadequate 16GB storage should make it a laughing stalk in 2017, but not if you read the fine print that it supports an external SD card up to 2T (in theory of course, 256GB SD card is the max so far.) One caveat, I notice some apps can not load onto the SD card, that it may be a problem down the road, since there doesn’t seem to be storage management tools available to solve the problem. Simply say, I can’t load too many apps on the phone. It’s fine with me.

If you are looking for a new Android phone with a snappy Octo-CPU, a stylus to make notes or input Japanese Hiragana and Katakana, and Android Nougat,  this is a good option. Unless, you want to wait for the flagship Samsung Note 8 coming out this year.

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The Price is Right: Kobo Arc 32 GB $98

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Finally I found an Android tablet that was less than $100. I already have an iPad2, so I don’t want to spend a lot to get one and test the OS to see whether Apple’s iPad should really claim supreme.

I saw a demo unit at Staples that sold for $99, touched it, swiped it, and I was ready to buy if they had a new unit. They didn’t. I went Google it to read more about its specs, and Walmart came up because of web analytics. I went to the site and bought one.

arcAt $98 before taxes, this buy will be a no-brainer for someone in market for a budget introductory tablet. The least expensive one on the market with a decent made is Lenovo A-1000 8GB  7″, $114 at Costco. Samsung Galaxy Tab3 7″ is $167, and the nicer 8″ is $227, last checked at Costco too. I believe they all run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, Kobo uses 4.1.

The reasons I bought this were:

1. my iPad costed over $500, now at $399 retail, it is still an expensive gadget to lug around in my gym bag and use it while I am out. The Kobo, now, I can use it anywhere I want (Starbucks has the best Wifi connection, Tims’ never works for me), and best of all, no one will ever snatch it. Besides, iPad2 is just a tad too big to whip it out on the subway.

2. to use it to learn coding for an Android app. If you didn’t know. Android core system is Linux, and its apps are written in Java. Apple’s is running Xcode built on Steve Jobs’s NexT system, Mac OS and iPad app share some of the same codes. Microsoft’s Surface is just an extension of its Windows OS, developed in Visual Studio.

3. to see whether the divided is really about the features of two OSes, or something else?!

4. At $98, it’s a bargain, and an eReader no less . A MP3 player probably costs more.

[Android 1: Apple 0]

Directory:So I have been using my Kobo Arc for one week now, and have started with my app development lessons. The device connected by USB easily to my laptop, except you will need to turn on USB debugging in {}Developper options under Settings before it will show as a device on your laptop. On the laptop, you will need to manually install the driver, i.e., don’t follow the “suggested driver” in Windows. Once installed, you will be able to view all the folders in your tablet. If you have used Linux before, the organization will be familar to you. If not, try imaging a DOS system. I think this is part of the freedom people have been condemning Apple, and praising Android, cause there is no way to get to the source directory in iPad’s. In other words, any photos or pdfs you saved, you need an app to export them.

[Android 2: Apple 1]

“Home”UserInterface(UI): In my other posts I had been saying Android wasn’t as elegant as iOS,which I still hold to my opinion. Standardized icons for app make it easier for beginner to learn and use them quickly. In other words, variations are better for an intermediate to advance user. For the simple reason, they have the core knowledge of how things seem different but the same at the end. For example, holding down an icon in both systems mean you can do something with the icon, with iOS, they start to wiggle and an small “x” appears on each of the icon’s right side, it signals the available action of deleting an app that you don’t want anymore: one choice. With Android, no wiggle, but a garbage can will appear at the bottom of screen in the middle of an rectangler bar; it means you can put that app there and it will disappear from the home screen(s). Here is the different, iOS actually deletes the app, and if you have had stored it in iCloud, you can upload and install it again. So what happens to the one with Android? you can still find it in the main Menu(the circle with 9 evenly spaced dots).  To truly delete an app, you need to do it in Settings/app …uninstall.

The second choice, depending on the device, is that you can pin webpages or folders onto your home page(s) for easy access, i.e., non-app dependent. This is more a desktop OS methodology, open file and choose an app, instead of the other way around: open app and search file. The former gives you choices of apps, the latter restricts you. In other words, no app to play .flv on your tablet, too bad. That was and still is the uproars that iOS still doesn’t play videos that require Flash. Add fuel to fire, you cannot install the mac flashplayer file onto an iPad, cause there is no way to get to the root system files (of course, jailbreak it. Do you want to?) .

[Android 2: Apple 2]

Apps: There might have been a disparity when I was holding proudly my Google phone (HTC Dream), in regards to app selections, but the fight has narrow likens PS3 and XBOX games. Most popular apps are now bi-platform. However, I have to say, iOS apps run smoother than Android’s. So far, Android’s have been crashing more often on my KOBO Arc, but it could be a hardware issue. Hence, standardization has another advantage: Apple has full control of its QA. I need not to say more, we all have experienced Windows hardware conflicts. Linux is no exception. Once again, Android tablets use different types of screen and touch methods, so I find mine is not as responsive as my iPad.

[Android 2: Apple 3]

OS: Android OS is hardware dependent.To me it is a bit old school. This is no different from an analog watch to a digital one, none of them are compatible or upgradeable, but they satisfy their objective to tell time. And if you are trendy, chuck the old, buy a new. That’s a waste of resources. The life-cycle of an Apple product is about 5-10 years. I told in another post, I still am using my 2006 80GB iPod classic, and it connects to the most current version of iTunes. On the other hand, a few apps I tried to download for my Arc returned saying incompatible, which mean 4.2 must be the lowest denominator in the Android world. Luckily, most of the popular apps still run on 4.1. Those don’t likely have a desktop web version, so I use a web browser instead, e.g., CNET app.

At the end of the day, which one to use is really based on the level of knowledge you have with computer. In other words, the more you know, Android will be better, cause you like to tingle with things. For the curious youngster and the older seniors, an iPad will be better for them, cause you really don’t want them to delete or reformat the drive by accident.

For me, $98 is like another pair of sneakers. I have no problem putting it in my gym bag.

Cheers.

PC… who needs it, anymore?!

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I was at Costco yesterday, I was totally surprised to see that there was a desktop model on display, the others were All-in-One loaded with Windows 8.

I think owning an All-in-One is just silly. Imagine standing and swiping away like a restaurant waiter to get to the webpage you want, or worse try typing a letter in WORD using the screen-keyboard. Sure, you can sit and do the same, but I bet after 10 minutes, your arm will get tired. Besides, All-in-One is not new! If you have been following the evolution of Microsoft’s OS, Acer and HP had touch-screen all-in-One since Windows 7, just that no one was buying them. To be honest, even if an iMac 27″, I doubt I will get one, or salivate to get one; it’s just not practical. This will only make sense if you using the computer passively: watching videos, playing music and games, etc.: touch here, touch there…

If you connect the dots, iPad and tablets are doing exactly just that. Sure, you may also occasionally type an email, reply to text, post a picture, … but the difference is that tablets and iPad are lighter and totally mobile. I can type anywhere I want with a blue-tooth keyboard, and it is just as good, if not better.

Another point why PC is dead? Before you might need to bring work home, but laptop has become so cheap that you likely can use one of your offices’ to do real work. It means the days you had to use your home computer to finish a report was so yesteryear. Likely, you get a laptop on loan, and VPN into your office network to get the files you need, and work away. This also means even thumbdrive is another technology of the past; besides, your company probably never allows you to download stuff on a thumbdrive anymore for security reasons. Remember those thumbdrive-gates, where public servants lost drives with sensitive information on them, and worse they were un-encrypted?!

Of course, some will argue that they still need a home computer to edit their photos, home movies, and stuff like that. Seriously, how many people are really doing those?! Never mind some people still have a hard time understanding an OS! Besides, Photoshop, InDesign, iMovies, …are really meant for the pro.

So it became apparent last week when I decided to get the last few bucks out of my Netbook (remember those?!), I installed Lubuntu hoping to get more speed out of the thing: Gateway 11″ LT311h, WinXP. It did and I was happy that finally everything was working with this Ubuntu version 12.04. Its WIFI was working seamlessly (three years ago, I was still struggling with it to recognize my router, and it never did, I used ethernet …long story). My next dilemma was whether to get a new battery, so that I could use it at cafés, etc, and mostly for writing stuff like this. Gladly, I didn’t. I found an inexpensive ($14) blue-tooth keyboard, Logitech designed by ZAGG, to pair with my iPad2. In fact, with iOS7, it works even better.

Here is the deal, companies like CloudOn, Google, are offering workable version of Office derivatives (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) in the Cloud, and files created are sync-able with Dropbox, Google Drive, and the likes, which means as long as there is a WIFI connection, I can work on those files as I please. Of course, one caveat is that you may not want to work on anything confidential on an open Hotspot. But at home, it’s game!

So iPad and tablets are in and laptop will soon be out, but not entirely, students still need them. Commercial laptop will remain, unless we revert back to terminal.

Mind you, I still prefer to write my blogs using my 15.6″ laptop, but for simple outdoor writing with a café au lait, my iPad/Logitech duo is nothing but perfect: light, truly functional, and practical now!

P.S. I use iWriter (Apple’s App) for basic non-format writing.

iOS7 has landed!

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There are many improvements, but after reading some reviews, I do agree there is a speed issue, i.e., some apps seem to take a while longer to open up, but so far no crashes.

As I said in Twitter before, it’s an OS update, but essentially it is the sleekness that will draw people’s attention.

Likes:

1. Locked-screen Notifications: clear and readable, easy sliding to check all of them.
2. Clean screen swipe to get to passcode entry.
3. Keypad seems to be more sensitive reading input letters. Before, I always had to correct my entry entering the wrong letter or number.
4. Dimensional layers are cool, i.e., the set-back background makes the app-icons look floating above. With iPad, you get dynamic motion background.

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5. Mutli-apps accessibility. Double-click the home button will show all active apps. Swipe up will close it. In other words, no more negative sign to close them on the bottom bar, when home button is double-clicked.
6. Easy pull up (from bottom) to change most used settings, like bluetooth, wifi, camera…
7. Same, while in use, pull down from top to show notifications. Interesting iPad version now also includes weather report.
8. Camera controls are now on the left and right side, which makes them more accessible.
9. Overall, it feels lighter with the esthetic changes? psychological or good design?!

Dislikes:

1. It seems it takes more power, so it lasts shorter between re-charges (non scientific).
2. Apps may take longer to load.
3. Can’t slide2right an email to delete it anymore.
4. If you have the setting set to “show all”in Music, your music library will include those purchased in the iCloud… I turned it off, so it only shows the ones that are downloaded to my devices. Besides, you can’t play the ones with iCloud symbol, you have to download them(again) first ??? very confusing.

An OS, is an OS, is an OS… iOS7 is sexy, sleek, as predicted, and easy on the eyes- no sound wiping, no vibration swiping, no big screens, small screens, opaque, transparent, big icons, small icons,…and no calories (Jelly bean, Donut, Kit-Kat: WHY)!!!

Cheers.

iOS7: Selling Sleekness

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What a smart move when the two icon-based systems, Android and iOS, are getting hard to distinguish, Apple pulls its design trump card! Perhaps saying copy all you want, we create, or Apple is just tired of all the patents lawsuits with Samsung.

I watched the video http://www.apple.com/ios/ios7/features/ to get to know some of the new features. My impression was more form over substance, even the recording voice and image of John Ive, SVP, Design, gave the feel that I was in a meditation session: calm, tranquil in the luxury displays of new interfaces, yes, sublime too.

I bet this is also a direct assault to MS Win8, remember the busy click-clack of tiles in its commericals?

What does this mean? iPhone will stay, despite I and my friends were getting bored with it, since there were no drastic changes for the longest time until this announcement.

People who like esthetic stuff and somewhat practical will remain loyal customers. I will put my hand up too after seeing this (I like nice designs), though I was seriously thinking of upgrading to Samsung’s S4 or Note III for practicality reasons the last few months.

Don’t forget Apple is a luxury brand and that’s what it is selling!

Think Rolex, Cartier, Louis Vuitton!

E-Readers and Android Tablets @War!

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It’s interesting time, and consumers seem to be the winner. The phenomenon is that e-readers are trying to add internet features to their gadgets, while Android tablets are trying to cannablize e-reader’s market shares with price slashing! Two Android tablets in Canada are selling for $150: Samsung 7″ Galaxy 2 and Lenovo 7″ Ideapa  A1. Both are running Android 4.0 ice-cream sandwich ( you can check their specs either at futureshop.ca or bestbuy.ca, but I think they are comparable). Nexus 7 is still selling at $270 with faster processor, better screen and latest 4.2 Jelly Bean. Kobo in Canada is coming out with Arc at $200!!! I think it is like the Nook of Barnes and Noble. I mean, these e-readers are using the same Linux base program as their OS, so why buying an e-reader now especially the obvious value-for-money is the 7″ Android tablet at this point, that has downloadable apps like Kindle,  and Overdrive for ebooks purchasing and borrowing, respectively. True, e-readers are still thinner and lighter and less clunky to take out and read in the subway, but at $149, they might even push handheld gaming devices at the edge of obsolescent?! I doubt Apple will slash its iPad Mini‘s price by $100, hence, I purposely leave it out of the equation. So let the war begins, and we will see if e-readers stand a chance?! and same for games handhelds…

Cheers.

P.S. remember Netbook as a category?!

Just iTunes U itself makes iOS so much better…

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Usage share of web client operating systems. (...

Usage share of web client operating systems. (Source: Median values from Usage share of operating systems for August 2011.) Windows XP (35.21%) Windows 7 (31.21%) Windows Vista (11.27%) Mac OS X (7.31%) iOS (3.38%) Linux (2.25%) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think there have been enough said about iOS being a closed-system; therefore, it is controlled by Apple and less friendly. On the other hand, the Android OS is totally open-source; therefore, you can make changes as much as you like “if you know how” or “where to look for them”. One point I want to make is that Android OS is Linux, and Linux is great if you know command lines, etc. Trust me, I had used many versions of Linux, even was crazy enough to buy the Corel Linux way back when, but each time was the same disappointment: I was spoiled with Windows and unable to learn processes that were beyond point-click-hourglass-wait-fingercrossed-installed. I remember I had to issue “Mount” in Linux so that my CD-ROM became functional. So my point, Linux does offer great flexibly, because you can truly script and tailor to your needs as you want! But I am lazy, and too senile to do that, but I did try.

Here is my point regarding iOS, despite it is a close-system, Apple’s own applications are well thought out; therefore, no need to tweet. Case in point is the iTunes U that I talked about in my earlier blog: Attending iTunesU in bed with pj, other than the choices of lectures, I just discovered another great feature it has: taking notes when you watch the video lecture.

Fig1: top right (notepad icon)

To access the notebook, click on the notebook icon top right (Fig. 1) ,which opens up the notepad while the video is still running, i.e., you can truly experience it as if you were in a lecture.

Fig 2: Notepad with video

You can record your notes and access it as you need in course binder!

If this is not genius for students, I do not know what is! The only missing thing is to get a bluetooth keyboard and you are all set. If your college is on the same wavelength and delivers its courses this way, all you need is an iPad with keyboard for the entire semester! No more bulky knapsack with textbooks and laptop. Do other tablet OSes do that other than improving games and watching TV shows, movies, youtube… and connecting to social media. I think I am right on this one.

Cheers.

Inserted graphics are from Virology W3310 offered by Columbia University conducted by Dr. Vincent Racaniello.

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