Tag Archives: android

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2: How big is too big?

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Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro ™ 12.2 (Wi-Fi), White 32GB
http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/galaxy-tab/SM-T9000ZWAXAR

Recently, I’ve had a hankering to do some inking. Using a stylus and tablet to write has a wonderfully organic feel that I’d enjoyed when using digital ink on Galaxy Note Phones and an early generation Note tablet 10.1. So, I downloaded some handwriting apps onto my iPad Mini and Kindle HDX 8.9, got out a stylus and got started. l quickly remembered why I’d always preferred Samsung Note devices and S pen — they make inking super easy… no skips or stutters.

So I visited my friendly neighborhood Best Buy. l considered the Note 10.1 2014 edition but quickly became most interested in the elusive and mystical 12.2″ Note Pro, which wasn’t on display. When I asked about it, I learned an employee had one of her own and she’d be working the following day. As promised, she was there the next day, Note Pro 12.2 in hand. She let me try it out and although I’d expected to be appalled and deterred by its size, I found it to be not only pleasant but fun to use.

What did I like?
– The screen is bright and sharp
– The ability to view up to 4 apps simultaneously is very handy
– The S pen makes the inking experience super smooth
– Samsung’s S pen handwriting recognition software works very well, even with my nearly illegible scrawl
– The Samsung Note Pro’s digital ink apps are fun and useful, and especially show off the S pens’s capabilities

Although I haven’t had it long, l’ve been surprised and delighted by the Note Pro 12.2. I got a free keyboard case with it (part of limited Samsung promotion) but haven’t used it because the S pen experience is so good.

Moral of the story? As newer, larger tablets are released, don’t knock ’em til you try’ em.

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Video

The *best* smartwatch app (Android): Augmented Smartwatch Pro

Video description: Shows how Augmented Smartwatch Pro v 4.0 makes the Pebble watch even better. Note that app supports Pebble, Sony Smartwatch, and Metawatch.

My Take:

I’ve been using the Augmented Smartwatch Pro Android app with my smartwatches over the past few weeks. It extends smartwatch capabilities in such a useful way that I consider it a “must have” app.

Here’s how I’m using it with my Sony Smartwatch — it’s highly configurable so you can set it up to best fit how you use your smartwatch:

  • The “All other notifications” section lists nearly every app on my Note II, and based on my selections, Augmented Smartwatch Pro pushes notifications for Carbon for twitter @ messages and my Conscious app mindfulness reminders.
  • I recently learned about its robust Fitbit daily data support, and now can see how long I slept, how many steps I’ve taken, calories, etc., displayed in charts (!) on my Sony Smartwatch. For a fitbit data geek, this is nirvana!
  • It periodically pushes Wunderground weather info, including rain alerts (requires user to obtain a wunderground api)
  • I can also configure Augmented Smartwatch Pro’s quiet time settings to ensure I don’t receive smartwatch notifications during the night.

What I’ve listed above barely brushes the surface of the functionality the app brings to smartwatch use. I highly recommend it. The developer is both responsive and very experienced in writing smartwatch-related apps.

There’s a free version available, too. Strongly suggest going ahead and getting the Pro version — as smartwatch users, it’s in our best interest to support active, hard-working smartwatch app developers!

Pebble Notifier (Android): Now even better!

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I learned today that Pebble Notifier has been updated to version 2.5. Among other improvements, it now attempts to send even more information to Pebble than just notification text.

Example: With Carbon for Twitter included in my Pebble Notifier list it now sends both the notification and if I scroll down when the notification appears on my Pebble, the @mention text is also displayed. Cool!

I already love my Pebble (see my initial impressions). It’s fun seeing Pebble functionality evolve via third-party developers!

hello, pebble: initial impressions

Pebble

In April 2012, I contributed to a kickstarter project for the Pebble watch. It was a new product that would allow the wearer to link the watch to their iOS or android phone and receive a variety of notifications. Because the watch face itself is software based, the user could select from different watch faces rather than having just one standard display.

Fast forward to February 2013: My Pebble watch arrived yesterday!

Having had a day to play with my new Pebble, here are some initial impressions:

  • It’s lighter and thinner than expected
  • The epaper display is bright and easy to read in ambient light
  • I’ve only needed to use the backlight at night — it’s not super bright but does illuminate the display well enough
  • It’s large but not as large as I’d feared
  • It’s very easy to pair with the Pebble android app
  • The watch band is soft & flexible

Before my Pebble arrived, I’d already installed the Pebble android app. Because the official Pebble app currently has a limited set of notification in settings (incoming calls, SMS, calendar reminders, email, Google Talk, Google Voice, Facebook, WhatsApp) I looked online and found there are more android apps to extend Pebble integration:

While email notifications work well using the native Pebble android app, I found them distracting and turned them off. Note to Gmail two-step authentication users: You’ll need to set up an app-specific password in order to receive Gmail on your Pebble watch.
 
Samsung phone owners need to be aware that due to an apparent Samsung firmware bug, enabling the Pebble in their accessibility settings also turns on Talkback for some phone functions. Example: Now whenever I open a folder, my Note II (audibly) says “The folder is open.” I’m not hearing text to speech across the board, just in some limited instances. If it bothers you, you can try this fix (I just tried it, and it worked on my Verizon Note II):  http://www.productigeeky.com/faq/#1
 
I’d love to see a battery % status display on the watch (or within the Pebble android app). Even so, I love my Pebble and look forward to seeing additional functionality and integration enabled as developers get up and rolling.

Edited to add: Here’s a good video by The Verge that shows Pebble watch in use.

Samsung Galaxy Note (N7000): My review

Once upon a time not so long ago, there was a phone called the HTC EVO 4G. When photos and reviews began appearing on the web, I scoffed at how impossibly huge the EVO seemed with its 4.3 inch screen. I went to see it at a Sprint store. I left, satisfied that I’d seen what I’d come to see. The next day though, I kept thinking about the EVO and how much I’d enjoyed using it at the store. I returned that day to buy it, and became a delighted, long-time EVO 4G user.

In 2011, Samsung released the Galaxy Note (international version) with its 5.3 inch screen. I didn’t become interested in the Galaxy Note until AT&T released the Note in February 2012, giving me an opportunity to see and handle it. I was surprised that it didn’t seem outrageously large when I handled it, and realized it might fit the sweet spot between the portability of a phone and the easy-on-the-eyes screen of a tablet.

I bought the white AT&T Galaxy Note (model I717) — I loved it for the beautiful, easy to read screen and S-pen (stylus). I realized, however, that the AT&T model had some features that I found to be impediments:

  • The LTE data capability would have been wonderful if I had LTE network coverage in my area. I don’t though, and was disappointed that I couldn’t find a way to turn LTE off! My battery life suffered, and I didn’t even get super fast data speeds to compensate 😉
  • I missed being able to wake up the phone easily by pressing on a physical home button. Instead, I needed to reach up, locate, and press the power key to wake the phone. Possible, yes. Convenient, not so much.

So I decided to return the AT&T Note, and bought the international version (model N7000) instead. It solved the two AT&T Note issues I’d experienced since it didn’t have an LTE radio but did have an easy to locate/press physical Home button.

Now that I’ve had the Note for about 6 weeks, is it right for me? Read on:

  • Screen: I still love the big, bright, easy to read screen. I haven’t normally been one to browse the web on my phone but the Note makes it such a pleasant experience that I’m doing more browsing on the go.
  • S-pen (stylus): My handwriting makes chicken scratches look good, it’s that bad! But the Note’s handwriting recognition software is good enough that I can use the S-Pen to take notes on my Note and accurately convert it to text. The S-Pen is fabulous for making annotations. And it’s also quite handy for playing “Draw Something.” 😉
  • Samsung TouchWiz interface: I actually like TouchWiz. It’s fairly customizable, and I love how it allows me to do two things not easily done on all Android phones:
  1. Take screen shots
  2. Change the system font
  • Battery life (on the International model): I’ve found battery life to be quite good. I tend to leave GPS & Mobile Data enabled all the time, although I do use WiFi for data at home.
  • Phone Audio & Voice quality: I’ve found Audio & Voice quality to be good. However, I should mention I normally use a bluetooth headset with mobile phones (including the Note).
  • Camera (Still & Video): Photo and Video quality is very good.
  • Easy to update firmware: Especially with the international model, it’s super easy to update the firmware using Odin PC software and firmware available on xda-developers.com. No rooting required!

I’ve found some excellent accessories which others may find useful as well:

  • Skque Clear TPU Gel Case: A no frills clear case that protects my Galaxy Note, but lets the lovely white Note finish shine through. (The white Galaxy Note does not provide a textured back, and it can be slippery without a case!)
  • Generic Horizontal Belt Clip Case: Nothing fancy, just a way to clip the Note to my slacks. Although no longer sold on Amazon, probably available on ebay and from other outlets selling Galaxy Note accessories.
  • Desktop Dock for Samsung Galaxy Note: Gorgeous charger dock that can be used in either portrait or landscape orientations. Expensive but worth it.

So, there you have it… my Galaxy Note review along with buying considerations if you’re trying to decide between the AT&T and International models. Questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

UPDATED! Fitness tech gadgets: My “road test” results

Up

I’ve updated this post based on my experience after it was published. See text in blue bold for updates.

With the holidays approaching, I’ve been seeking ways to reinforce my motivation to meet health goals. This time of year, it’s all too easy not to be active enough due to long hours at work and colder weather outside.

So, after hearing about friends’ experiences using fitness devices, I decided to try a few myself:

All three devices worked as advertised for me, although there are some caveats potential buyers should be aware of…

Jawbone UP (pictured above):

PROS –

  • Easy to wear “bracelet” design
  • Compact and unobtrusive
  • Push button to change modes is easy to use and works well
  • Tracks activity (tracks steps when not in “active” mode)
  • Tracks sleep in a fairly granular manner. Comfortable to wear while sleeping. (It’s helped me understand why I’m so tired during the day… I don’t sleep very soundly at night.)

CONS –

  • First generation product with (an apparently) high failure rate. (More on this below.)
  • Only syncs with iPhone app (no joy for folks with other smartphones or even laptop users)
  • Surprisingly, doesn’t sync via bluetooth: User must connect UP to iPhone via headphone jack
  • iPhone sync process can be fussy: I find it works best if I restart my iPhone, open UP app, insert UP into headset jack, turn up headset volume, then initiate sync right away within UP app. (It really shouldn’t require such a precise process!)
  • Progress and metrics can only be viewed on iPhone app (not able to view metric tracking/dashboard on web site)
  • Food tracking is limited
  • Doesn’t automatically sync activity metrics with my favorite fitness/food journal app, Lose It!
  • Due to bracelet design, your arms must be swinging during exercise to accurately register activity (not happy news for bikers!)

UP

Caveats:
The Jawbone UP’s early failure rate almost dissuaded me from purchasing this product. Even so, I bought at my Apple Store, taking care to keep the package and receipt *just in case*. And the failure rates are not just anonymous metrics — I know someone who is on his third Jawbone UP — the 1st two failed.

With so many reports of early hardware failure, I’m not sure I’d give it as a gift until Jawbone comes out with UP v.2

UPDATED: A big con arose for me… it completely stopped syncing. No matter what I did, it would not sync. I finally wound up returning it to Apple (where I bought it) as defective.

Fitbit

Fitbit Ultra:

 

PROS –

  • Syncs wirelessly (dock connected via USB to your laptop)
  • Comes with seemingly handy plastic clip to connect to your clothing. (More on this below.)
  • Tracks activity and sleep
  • Offers detailed online dashboard at fitbit.com
  • Offers an iPhone app, as well as a mobile web site for other smartphones

UPDATE: I decided to keep the Fitbit after the UP stopped syncing. Based on the variety of tracking devices available on the market, Fitbit is among the best. I wrapped the Fitbit “holster” in electrical tape to make it less slippery (less likely to slide off my belt), and added a layer of electrical tape inside the holster to add friction (make it less likely the device itself would slide out on its own).

CONS –

  • Sleep tracking requires inserting device into cloth wristband (I found this a little uncomfortable)
  • Sleep tracking is not as granular as Jawbone UP
  • Integrates with Lose It! mobile app but in a confusing way. (More on this below.)
  • SUPER easy to lose! It’s flown off my belt several times.
  • Fitbit iPhone app is okay but not as granular as I’d like

Caveats:
The plastic clip is slippery! It’s far too easy to lose the Fitbit Ultra (and at $99, you don’t want to risk losing it!). Integrates with Lose It! app but only populates Lose It’s exercise metrics if you burn a certain number of calories (hey, I want credit for all activity, as a motivator to be even more active!).

If you buy a Fitbit Ultra, be sure to find a way to affix it to your clothing so that it won’t fly off.

Withings

Withings Scale:

PROS –

  • Super easy to use… just weigh yourself and your weight is automatically synced to your my.withings.com dashboard
  • Easy to set up: Insert batteries, then connect scale to your computer via USB to complete set up (including enabling WIFI sync).
  • User can enable integration with Lose It! app and Fitbit dashboard.
  • Offers multiple mobile apps (WiScale app for iPhone and Withings app for Android).

CONS –

  • Expensive at $159 (see Amazon page for product details & reviews).

Caveats:
Aside from cost, no caveats I can think of. Does what it promises.

Loseit

Special mention: Lose It! fitness / food journal app

I first started using Lose It! a few years ago on my iPhone and missed it terribly when I moved to an android phone.

I love its robust food database and how easy it is to update and review my food and activity metrics.

However, since then, a Lose It! Android app has been released. Glad to see this great app available for more phones!

UPDATE to add another special mention: F.lux. It’s software for Windows, Mac, Linux, and jailbroken iOS devices. It automatically adjusts your screen brightness by time of day. If you use your computer before bedtime, it’s a must have… I installed it yesterday and noticed a big difference in how soundly I slept last night.

So what combination works best for me?

I’m still using the Jawbone UP and Withings scale with Lose It! iPhone app and web site dashboard:

  • I manually add activity tracked on the UP into Lose It!
  • Since I have Lose It! linked to my Withings scale, my weight is automatically posted to my LoseIt! account.
  • I monitor my sleep metrics via the UP iPhone app.

Both the UP bracelet and Withings scale have been a good fit for me, offering motivation while not requiring a lot of effort or workarounds.

  • I found the Fitbit Ultra works well but wasn’t practical for me because it kept coming off my belt — I decided it would be too easy to lose. (UPDATED: Fixed this with some electrical tape)
  • I recommend Jawbone UP with some reservation. It does what it does well, but seems prone to early hardware failure based on user reports. (UPDATED: And my UP failed as well. Great device, disappointing quality issues.)
  • I recommend Withings scale without reservation.
  • You can’t go wrong with the Lose It! app for iPhone and android!
  • UPDATED: F.lux is a must have, as well!

Android early adopters, rejoice! Swappa is an easy way to buy / sell android phones. (Article edited: Maybe I’ll stick to selling my cast off phones to friends)

Swappa logo

Edited 10/17/2011: See Update at bottom of article. Despite swappa being an easy way to buy / sell devices, I think I’ll stick to selling my old devices to friends instead.

——————

Like so many other nerds, I love how competition in the mobile marketplace is causing mobile phone features to evolve quickly. It’s a wonderful thing for consumers, especially early adopters.

The downside?

Being an early adopter can get really expensive. One way to mitigate the cost is to sell mobile phones you’re no longer using. But I’d always been hesitant to do so, after hearing so many horror stories about cell phone sales on ebay and craigslist.

Enter swappa.com — a web site where android users can buy or sell their gently used, recent mobile phones. What makes swappa (in my opinion) preferable to craigslist or ebay?

For buyers:

  • Sellers are required to indicate specific condition of the phone.
  • Sellers are required to provide the IMEI up front (not disclosed to the buyer until after purchase).
  • Sellers are required to itemize what comes with the phone.
  • No haggling: The phone cost is clearly noted on sale listing.
  • No “surprise” shipping costs: The seller is responsible for routine shipping cost.
  • All communication with seller is via swappa.com.

For sellers:

  • It’s cheap to add a swappa sale listing: It costs $10 for the listing. Add another $10 to promote it to “featured” which gains your listing greater visibility via a @swappa tweet.
  • Seller pays shipping within U.S. — I usually indicate shipping via UPS ground with the caveat that faster shipping will require a 2nd paypal payment (i.e., expedited shipping at buyer’s cost).
  • No haggling: You set the price and the buyer finalizes the sale by issuing a paypal account, or not. You receive an email when the buyer issues their payment via paypal.
  • Rooted phones are welcome. The sales listing form even offers a field to specific root information!
  • All communication with buyer is via swappa.com

So, you decide to sell your device via swappa.com. How can you prompt it to sell quickly??

  • Add clear, macro photos to your listing so buyer can see the condition of your phone and any accessories
  • Be as specific as possible in your listing. For example: If including an SDcard, indicate both the size and speed.
  • If you’re including gently used accessories, it’s okay to specify how much the phone and accessories cost retail.
  • Include a link to the technical specs for your phone.
  • And, of course… you will sell more quickly if you price your phone competitively.

And to make it a pleasant experience for the person buying your phone:

  • Post-sale, treat the buyer as you’d want to be treated: Be patient and answer their questions promptly. Remember, they’ve just sent you money for a device sight unseen. I also try to offer the buyer multiple carrier options for shipping (e.g., UPS, fedex, or USPS) in case one method is more convenient for them than another.
  • Limit activation issues for the buyer: If it’s a locked phone, contact your carrier to add a note to your account specifying that phone has been sold.
  • Ship promptly! As an early adopter, you like to get your tech stuff quickly… so does your buyer!

I’ve used swappa.com twice so far, and have really been pleased with the experience. One phone sold in 3 days, the other sold in 2 hours!

I recommend swappa.com wholeheartedly. If you’re an android early adopter, give swappa a try… you’ll like it!

Edited 10/17/2011: Well, no longer sure I feel comfortable selling phones I no longer use to strangers. A buyer left a comment post-sale accusing me of shipping a damaged device. (It was in excellent condition with no damage and I’d posted photos showing phone’s condition from various angles.) His accusatory message ended with “thanks for the good deal & fast shipping!”. Very weird experience. I’m not sure why someone would do that (and certainly not swappa founders’ fault), but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Ugh.