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.

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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.

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.

Apple Cares!

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Despite all the writings of disappointment in Apple’s latest offerings: iPad Air, Mini Retina, OS Maverick, …, Apple is still one of the most organized, consumer oriented company. WHY? Check out this link: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1353#. A link that shows a chronological display of all the iPods that existed and exist. I found mine, a fifth generation 2006 release with 80GB, and I paid good money for it, $600 in 2006. The incredible thing is that a seven years old portable music player that allows for current software updates, and still plays my library with no hitches whatsover. That I call a good return on investment. In comparison, my Sony’s Net MD Walkman Mz-N510, obviously is no longer supported, but I did manage to locate an old software driver in Sony’s esupport page. I paid $500 for it, and used it for a year: Bad investment, so is my little ZEN plus from Creative. No battery replacement option.

Here is my point, a good product is a good product, period. I have an iPad2, and am very happy with it. I tried out the iPad Air, and it’s true, not breath-takingly spectacular in any sense to me, but for the ones who have never owned one, it is pretty amusing! And I bet that’s Apple strategy, attract new, or convert, one at a time! there is no rush to amass market share increment in one shot, besides, they don’t need to.

I think this is an important lesson for the other hardware producing companies to take notice. Your gadget derivatives are chasing away your customers! Google is probably the exception so far with its Nexus line. The others, too many names, too many models, total confusion.

So why is Apple winning: stylish, simple lines, and values. The most important of it all, they seem to care about the products they sold that I own. Yes, at a premium, and perhaps the differential is that intangible value you pay for.

Cheers.

Windows Media Center vs. iTunes Home Sharing

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Update (Oct 29, 2013): With Home Sharing turned on and iTunes11, all my devices(iPad, iPhone, Netbook) are synced with my main PC (i3, Win7) with medias in an external HD! Sweet. No fuzz with Win Media Center anymore.

How: with your iPad, iPhone, open Music app, and look for Share in More… click your library. For other PC, install iTunes and turns on Home Sharing.

(Nov, 11,2012)So I had been using my 7 years old resurrected HP laptop as a media center with my music library residing in one of my external HDs. It had been doing a decent job, but sometimes it had been a hit and miss; for example, adding new materials, sometimes, they showed up and other they just didn’t. It took me a while to learn to play all songs with shuffle, and to do a search (it only takes up to 4 characters I remember). I used it for about a month, then I figured out it was easier to pop a CD into my DVD player to play music with my AV receiver  (Those you attach with big speakers!).

Anyhow, a light bulb moment today! Since I have to turn on my main laptop anyway for either streaming – Windows Media Center or iTunes – and I have my iPad, why don’t I use iTunes’ Home Sharing instead? Besides, my music repertoire is already in iTunes. The only worry I have is the output quality through the headphone jack to a pair of RCA plugs to my AV receiver, I test it and it sounds decent!

So what is nice about using iPad as my media center instead? Well, everything is now touch base! and the library recognition is painless and seamless. What you see in iTunes is what I get on my iPad, and ‘Music’ app is easy to use and to find and pick songs. I can also stream videos with Home Sharing.

How to turn on Home Sharing in iTunes (PC): Find the Advance Tab, Turn-on Home Sharing using your Apple ID

On iPad, iPod Touch, and  iPhone under music>settings>turn-on Home Sharing, and ‘Music’ app, under ‘more’ >sharing>select your music and video library.  This means I get the same libraries on my iPhone too, an additional tool to play my music and videos at home.

With the PS3 system, it will recognize Windows Medias automatically if you turn your sharing on in the PC. That’s another option to stream your medias at home. I guess that’s the same for the Xbox 360.

Now I don’t have a Window Surface, so I don’t know if the touch-base experience will be the same?! With an Android tablet, I believe Boxee is perhaps a good option, it works with iPad too.

There you have it, I figure it will be cool to use this setup for your Christmas Party! Sure, you can download music to your iPad and plug it to one of those extended speakers, but with my way you have access to thousands of songs !!! and additional audio settings with your AV receiver.

Cheers.

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!

Regain space on iPad

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I have an iPad 2 with 16GB. As we all know with the iOS installed, we only left with 13.4GB for all our stuff.

Mine has been at the critical point of 1GB lately, so I started deleting stuff on the iPad to reclaim some of the space. I only have apps on it now, I stream my music from my iTunes library, and not really crazy to have movies and watch them on my iPad.

It has been 3 years since I bought it, I figured last week it was time to reset it to factory settings and restore my backup to give it a deep cleaning, like how we are supposed to with our laptop every year to cure performance issues.

So I did it last week. Make sure you backup your iPad on the computer before doing anything!!!! It took about an hour, and you know what, now I have 9.4GB of empty space, that’s almost 900% gain.I was astonished.

I think when you deleted apps on the iPad, it didn’t really uninstall the entire app, so some stuff were left behind…so this is the only way to clean it up, get space back, and improve performance: it had been freezing many times before I did this.

I am sure you know how to do this, anyway the steps are:

1) connect iPad with USB cable with iTunes on ( I wouldn’t do this wireless)

2) select device and pick iPad. On summary page, Backup and then Reset to Factory Settings.

3) Follow steps on screen after iPad is reset, and select “backup-date” to restore

Everything will be exactly before the reset including your wallpaper! I am going to do same with my iPhone now.

Cheers.

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