Category Archives: Cell Phone

I Test-Drove A Smart Watch. Here’s How To Make The Perfect One.

I’ve been an iPhone user for over 4 years, and while it’s been great, there have been a few things that I didn’t love. I’ve jailbroken each one of my phones to unlock special features and apps that Apple doesn’t allow. One example is that ability to respond to text messages from any screen without opening the messages app. A lot of the features Apple has rolled out over the years first came from the jailbreak community and I like to stay a step ahead of the game.

How To Make The Perfect SmartwatchI have been thinking of moving to the Google ecosystem for awhile now. I use Gmail, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Picasa, and have my contacts synced with Google. So why do I have an iPhone? I’m not sure anymore. So when I was given the chance to try out the Samsung Galaxy S5, I leapt at the opportunity. I wanted to find out if it was for me, even if the screen size seemed like a bit much for me.

Free Samsung Galaxy S5 Test Drive

Samsung set up a few shops across the country for users to test drive a few of their devices, and one of those happened to be in a nearby mall. Since I had a week off work, I went over to check it out and pick up my device. In addition to the S5, I also got a smart watch, the Galaxy Gear 2, for a trial. As long as I returned it within 3 weeks without breaking it, it would be free to me. I was excited to try it out, and I jumped right into the experience, forwarding all my text messages and phone calls to the new phone and making it my primary phone for about a week and a half.

First, a few notes about the phone: I thought the screen would be too big, but after the initial shock, I was able to get used to it very quickly. I ended up liking it a lot, and there are definitely things that take a little getting used to and settings to tweak, I could definitely see myself switching over for my next phone. While the S5 was great, I will be on the lookout for the next new phone to come out with even better features. I’m ready to say goodbye to the iPhone for good.

My Smart Watch Experience

My initial impression was very positive. At the beginning, I liked that I didn’t have to take my phone out of my pocket for every notification. I could read a text message on my phone and see who was calling without whipping my phone out. And best of all, I could put the call on speakerphone through my wrist, which was great when I was in the car. After just 24 hours, I had to turn off almost all notifications because it got to be too much. Every Facebook notification, every text message, and every Twitter retweet would make my wrist buzz. I turned off every notification except phone calls.

The feature I really liked was the step counter. I found out that I probably don’t walk enough during the day. But it was an encouragement for me to be a bit more active by going for a walk at night or short breaks during the day just to get my legs moving. I know there are other devices that can do something similar, but every smart watch has to have that feature.

How To Make The Perfect Smart Watch

If I could design the perfect smart watch, I would take a regular watch with a beautiful face and add a few key features to it. I would definitely have a sensor to add a step counter to it. I’d also add the speakerphone ability to it, because it was wonderful for multi-tasking and not having to hold a phone to my ear while cooking, which I did a bunch of during the week. Maybe an overlay on the watch face to see who is calling and have the watch buzz when there’s an incoming phone call, but that’s it. What I tested had far too many bells and whistles and likely caused the price to be a lot higher. The company that comes out with a low-priced beautiful looking smart watch will win the business. I’m not sure I really need a smart watch (I don’t usually wear a watch at all), but if I ever did, it wouldn’t be something as complicated as the Samsung Gear 2.

Would you ever wear a smart watch? What features do you think would be the most important?

How To Get Ridiculous Phone Upgrade Fees Waived

getting phone upgrade fees waivesWhen I upgraded to the iPhone 5, in addition to the cost of the phone ($200+tax), there was also a $36 upgrade charge on my AT&T bill. $36 for what?

According to AT&T, it’s for the “costs associated with selecting and activating your new equipment.” That sounds kind of silly considering that all they do is stick in a new SIM card into your phone (and in some cases, you are just putting your old sim card into a new phone)!

This fee sounds even more ridiculous when you go to an Apple store and have them do it all for you, without even taking the phone out of the box. So why is AT&T charging customers so much? Because they can.

The upgrade fee used to be $18, which I still think is very high, but the good news is that there’s a pretty easy way to avoid paying those pesky $36 fees each time you upgrade. When you have 5 plans on a family plan, that can add up very quickly.

I called AT&T and simply told the customer service representative that I saw the charge and that when I upgraded, the store manager told me that it would be waived. After looking at the notes (and not finding anything, obviously), the customer service rep told me that it wasn’t there, but that she could refund that fee for me.

Is it wrong to lie to AT&T to save money? Maybe. But is it wrong for AT&T to charge me $36 for an upgrade that they had no interaction with? I think so.

I tested with for a few others, including Lauren’s family, which had 3 upgrades on the same bill. The result? No problem, $108 removed from the bill. That’s a big deal!

Readers, what do you think of the $36 upgrade fee? Do you think it’s ok use my tactic?

It’s Finally Here! Apple Unveils The iPhone 5

I’ll admit – it was strange watching someone other than Steve Jobs on stage unveiling Apple’s latest iPhone. But once I got past that, I realized that the first iPhone of the post-Jobs era – the iPhone 5 (technically the 6th generation iPhone, since the 4S was technically the 5th) – can be described, almost entirely, in two words: faster and smaller.

What’s Faster

Naturally, it all starts with iOS 6, the latest version of Apple’s operating system. Apple reported that last quarter, it sold its 400 millionth (as in, 400,000,000) device supported by iOS.

But it’s more than that. The CPU on the iPhone 5 is twice as fast – so is the graphics card – despite the fact that they’re a combined 22 percent smaller than in previous versions. The A6 chip, which can work on seven bands, including (for the first time) 4G LTE, is twice as fast as before; users can expect the iPhone 5’s battery to support up to 8 hours of 4G LTE browsing. Look for Apple’s chief rival Samsung, who has really dominated the LTE marketplace while Apple lagged behind, to pay close attention to the engineering on this A6 chip; lawsuits could follow.

The camera is faster too – Apple’s Phil Schiller boasts of 40 percent faster photo capturing. Also look for new features, including a panorama mode, 1080p video, and the ability to take still photos straight from video.

You’ll be able to launch the apps more quickly, as well. Siri now has the ability to launch apps; you’ll be able to issues commands more clearly thanks to three microphones on the iPhone’s back, front, and bottom panels. And zoom through airport lines with new apps like Passport, which automatically brings up your boarding pass as you approach the gate.

What’s Smaller

Thanks to the iPhone 5’s glass and aluminum construction, this is the thinnest and lightest iPhone Apple’s ever created – in fact, it’s the thinnest and lightest smartphone on the market, period. It measures just 7.6 millimeters thick and 112 grams. That’s 20 percent lighter than the 4S, but if you really want a clear picture of just how small that is, consider this: a stack of 22 nickels weighs 110 grams, roughly the weight of a single stick of butter. The decreased thickness is due to touch sensors, which are built directly into the display.

And while the phone itself and many of its major components – like the CPU, camera, and microphones – are an average of 22 percent smaller, one of the biggest changes is to the iPhone 5’s smaller connector. Called “Lightening,” the new connector is completely digital as well as reversible. No more wondering if you’ve plugged the right end of the cord into your phone – it doesn’t matter, it’ll work both ways. The Lightening is also 80 percent smaller than previous iPhone adapters, but don’t worry if you’ve got older accessories – Apple plans to offer an adapter for all current accessories.

But Something IS Bigger…

While the theme of this iPhone 5 launched seemed to be faster and smaller technology, I’d totally be doing iPhone lovers a disservice if I didn’t mention the one thing that is bigger on this phone: the display. The iPhone 5 has a 4-inch retina display. With a resolution of 1136 by 640 pixels, it’s the same width as the 4S, but taller, giving the iPhone 5 a 16:9 resolution.

When Are You Going To Get One?

I’ve talked before about my plan to sell my old iPhone so I can use the profits to buy the iPhone 5. I had a gut feeling that I should have sold my iPhone 4 (I never bothered buying the 4S; didn’t have enough new bells and whistles for the money) before today’s unveiling, and I was right:

While the price tiers for the iPhone 5 remains unchanged from prior launches – ranging from $199 to $399 – my current iPhone 4 model will now be free with new contracts; the iPhone 4S will drop to just $99. Hopefully people want some unlocked iPhones!

You can pre-order your iPhone 5 this Friday, September 14th; the first shipment goes out the next Friday, September 21st. Next week you’ll also be able to get your hands on iOS 6; a free upgrade will be available for all Apple products starting on the 19th.

Readers, will you be buying a new iPhone 5? What will you do with your old phone?