Sunday, January 26, 2014

Slickwrap for the Pebble Watch

I've blogged about my first wearable device the Pebble Watch, and now I've gotten a chance to try out an accessory for it. Slickwraps, the makers of protective skins for a variety of devices makes a Slickwrap for the Pebble complete with screen protector. Check out my initial impressions below along with the install process.

You can find more on Slickwraps at 

Firefighter Developing Google Glass app

This year is shaping up to be the year of the wearable smart device! As we've seen the flood gates begin to open for smart watches, we'll soon also see a number of other wearable devices take off! One of the most controversial of these devices set to be released to the public this year is Google Glass. Google Glass is a glasses mounted smart devices that pairs with your smartphone and provides a heads-up display capable of superimposing images on top of your natural field of view. Glass is definitely going to change the way we interact with each other and our environments and developers are already making great applications for the device. It will also offer up brand new ways to integrate technology into our lives and make us safer and more efficient. A developer who is also a firefighter is working on an app that truly demonstrates, that while we may be uncomfortable with some aspects of the new tech, there are some very useful and practical applications for it. This really makes you think more broadly about the ways wearable technology can and will impact our lives in the near future. Check out the video of this firefighting developers app in action. 

Nexus 5 Case Review

I've gotten a chance to try out a couple of cases for my Nexus 5. Check out my review for the cases from Diztronic, Spigen and Caseology below! Links for each case on Amazon below as well.

Caseology LG Google Nexus 5 [Saffiano Hybrid Series] - Premium Matte Leather Shock Absorbent TPU Bumper Case (Black)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Google Play Music Comes to iPhone (Free Month of All Access service)

I didn't expect this to happen but Google has launched it's amazing music service and application Google Play Music for the iPhone. This is a really good thing for iOS users! I have been using Google Play Music and Google Play Music All Access since they have launched and they have been two of my favorite Google services. Google Play Music allows users to upload 20,000 tracks from their computers to their Google accounts in the cloud. Afterwhich, all of this music is accessible from any Android device and now iPhone or web browser. All playlists, ratings and libraries are synced and can be streamed at any time. The mobile app also allows for caching music on the device for playback when there is no network connectivity.  Additionally, iOS newcomers will get one month free All Access streaming services (normally $9.99/month) which gives you access to over 20 million tracks, custom radio stations (like Pandora with more features), and smart features that recommend new music based on your listening habits. Google launched a similar deal at launch on Android also offering a $7.99/month deal for early adopters. I bought in early, convinced within the first hour of my free month trial.

This is an app and service I have been telling all of my Android and iPhone friend s about and I'm glad my iOS friends finally get to experience Google Play Music. Even if you don't want to subscribe to the All Access service Google Play Music is worth a look just to have a free cloud streaming service for your own music library. Google Play Music allows you to upload any of your music regardless of where/how you obtained that music. Whatever goes in the folder you designate for it to pull from goes into your library in the cloud and is accessible to you anywhere including iOS now. Google Play Music also has a tool to easily sync your music from iTunes. Google says the iPad version as well as some of the more advance features are on the way.

Check out the video below for full details on Google Play Music.

How many of you love Google Play Music? Any iPhone users excited to check it out?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Nexus 5 Intial Impressions

So after months of aniticipation I finally got my Nexus 5 Wednesday. After immmediately rooting it I restored all my settings and apps from my Galaxy SIII and am up and running. I plan to do a full hands on review soon, but for now I'd like to share my intial impressions.

Opening the box I thought I knew exactly what to expect. There have been so many leaks leading up to the releae of the Nexus 5 that I didn't expect there too be much of a wow factor. I was wrong. I was immediatley impressed after opening the box! I love soft touch plastic and matte black so I am really happy with the finish on the Nexus 5. The black model is pretty much just a  5" display wrapped in a  clean and classy soft touch matte black casing. I am a big fan of the simplistic design of the Nexus 5 and 7. I haven't seen the white model in person yet but I have heard good things about its finish. I'm not a big fan of white phones but as far far as white phones go it looks nice to me. I would have rather seen it white all the way around personally instead of of the half and half design that that seems to be popular with manufacturers.

The first thing that really jumps out as you as you remove the phone from the box is how light it is. Now part of this for me is probably due to the fact that my Galaxy S3 with 4500mah extended battery was a huge brick, but the Nexus 5 is really light and thin! Build quality is great in my opinion, the materials seem well crafted and everything is put together quite solidly. I really dislike the plastic cheap feel of most of Samsung's Galaxy phones, despite how good the phones actually are, but Google did a good job of making plastic feel higher end. 

The next thing that stands out is the crisp IPS+ Gorilla Glass 3 display. There are other displays on high end Android phones that may slightly out perform the Nexus 5, but none that I've seen do so in a significant way. Without the device's being side by side chances are most  won't notice any difference. I'd be surprised if someone didn't like the display on the Nexus 5, I am really impressed! I do think Google needs to tweak the auto-brightness feature though, as it is at times overly/unnecessarily bright, causing unnecessary drain on the battery. Fingers crossed Google addresses this in the rumored upcoming Android 4.4.1 update. Definitely not a deal breaker though and obviously can be tweaked to your liking.

Volume rocker
Power button (and sim card tray)
The Nexus 5 only has a few actual hardware buttons since all navigation buttons are on screens intended by Google (and defiantly ignored by most manufacturers). On the right you have the power button (and sim card tray) and on the left the volume rocker. The buttons are very well  and made of a nice ceramic material. After the cheap buttons on my Galaxy S3, the buttons on the Nexus 5 are a huge improvement, with just the right amount of give when pressed and protruding just enough to be easily found by touch. 

I've only had the phone a few days so I don't want to make any judgement calls on many of the features until I've had more time to test them, but overall I am very pleased with little complaints.

The phone is super smooth and snappy and Android 4.4 KitKat  some nice new tweaks that I'm sure will prove to be more and more noticeable as I use the device for a while. The phone is very smooth and responsive, opening apps and switching between tasks is blazing fast and so far it has handled everything I've thrown at it with no problems. 

The camera, at least initially, seems pretty good. I've only snapped a few shots so I will reserve final judgment for a bit but so far I'm at least satisfied. The new HDR+ takes noticeably more detailed pics, but requires more time to snap and process a photo. I will definitely have to test the camera some more to get a true feel for how it performs, but if you were worried about the camera because of the track record with Nexus cameras, don't be. I'm sure with future updates the camera software will receive additional tweaks and only get better. I've posted a few of the first sample pics that I took really quick while playing with the camera below.
HDR+ (I think I moved while it was still processing)
Taken in pitch black room
My biggest area of concern is battery life. I was really disappointed that Google only went with a 2300 mah battery. The jury is still out on how this will impact battery performance. The first few days have been ok, but I'll see how it does over the weekend. I work in a cellular black hole (and generally have terrible Sprint service) so any phone struggles with battery life at my job. This weekend will give me a better idea of how  performs in normal coverage conditions. Even with the poor coverage I have gotten about 8-9 hrs of light use these first few days, which at my job is actually pretty decent. Depending on where I am in the building, even my old Galaxy S3 with 4500mah battery that typically lasts 20+ hours under moderate to heavy use, struggles to get through a full day often tapping out around 15-20% or less after 10 hours. So comparatively, the Nexus 5 might have done ok. Again, this is a horrible means to make this assessment so I'll sum it up as initially seeming to be ok, but still needing more time to truly gauge it. 

My only complaint so far honestly is the speaker. It is disturbingly weak! Music is inconsistent and often sounds like a whisper. The speaker (which is actually only one of the grills on the bottom, the other is a mic... Yeah, no stereo speakers) is easily muffled by a misplaced finger making the problem worse. Speaker phone also left a bit to be desired. I've also read about playback inconsistencies where some apps handle audio a bit better than others for no apparent reason. I've been concerned that I won't even hear notifications, but have mostly been on vibrate the last few days so I haven't tested this much yet either. The good news is Google has acknowledged the audio/speaker issues and stated an update to rectify them is on the way. 

I'll have a full review and video soon once I've had more time to test things out, but my initial impressions are very good! The Nexus 5 is a quality device that gives you Android as Google intended at a unbeatable price. It also provides a freedom not many other phones can, supporting the networks of 3 out of the 4 major US carriers (Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T) granting you the power to jump from carrier to carrier and take your phone with you. (Now if the other carriers would follow T-Mobile and drop contracts they might have to to actually compete based on service quality and price). If you're considering the Nexus 5 I can confidently say, go for it! 

Thinking of getting the Nexus 5? Already got one? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Dialer App in Android 4.4 KitKat

Android 4.4 KitKat brings a number of subtle but impressive changes. The phone dialer app has some really nice new innovations. Check them out as described on the Android Google+ Page:

"The phone app (you know, the thing that helps you make a call!) on most smartphones hasn’t seen much change since the days of flip phones--with a dialer, a list of all your contacts and a call log. The new Phone app, which comes with Android 4.4, KitKat, makes calling even easier with improved search and caller ID by Google.  

Better search 
The new Phone app helps you find just the right number, even if it’s not in your contact list, by letting you search among nearby places or even Google Apps accounts (including your company’s directory, if employees numbers are shared), directly from within the app--just start typing, and results will show up! 

Caller ID by Google 
Screening your calls just got a whole lot easier! Even if you don’t already have a number saved in your contacts, Caller ID by Google can help you identify who’s calling. It’s useful for: 

-Businesses: We match numbers against the names of companies and services with a Google Places listing ( ). Now when they call you to tell you your table is ready, you’ll know to pick up! 

-Google Apps: Never worry about missing a call from work again - lookups from your Google Apps domain ( ) will let you know if someone important is calling. 

-People: Coming in early 2014, users who have verified their phone number and have discovery turned on will have their names and Google Profile photos display whenever they call you, or you call them (it’s great if a new friend who hasn’t been saved in your contacts yet calls you). Check your Google Account to make sure you are happy with how you appear on caller ID by Google: 

In addition to these two new feature areas we have also refreshed the look and feel of the app, placing the people you call the most frequently front and center, so you can call them even faster. All of this is available now to all Nexus and Google Play edition devices running Android 4.4, KitKat."

I can't wait until my Nexus 5 arrives on Wednesday to get some hands on time with these new features. What do you think about the new dialer app? Sound off below in the comments. 

Source: Android on Google+

Grand Theft Auto Online Update and $500K Stimmulus Package Coming Soon

Grand Theft Auto 5 will likely go down in history as one of the best games ever created. I got it midnight launch day and was disappointed that the online functionality was not ready at launch. So when Grand Theft Auto Online launched I was super excited! That is until I actually tried to use it. Anyone on Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 will tell you that GTA Online had and is having a very rocky start. Things have stabalized a bit but it can still be buggy. Many people have lost their created characters and game progress, some even mutlitple times. Rockstar has been working hard to fix these issues and get GTA Online stable and the patch to fix this could be coming as soon as this week.

Also coming this month is the Beach Bum Pack DLC containing new beach-themed vehicles and weaponry that can be used in GTA Online and Story Mode. The Beach Bum Pack will also include more customization options for GTA Online characters, including tattoos and hairstyles. New Jobs will also be added across Los Santos and Blaine County.

Rockstar is still working hard to release GTA Online Content Creator sometime this fall, which will allow players to create, publish, rate, and play custom Deathmatch and Race jobs. Rockstar will designate certain player created content as "Rockstar Verified" and will feature it on the Rockstar Newswire as well as part of upcoming GTA Online Social Club events (weekend events where players can earn special rewards and bonuses). The Beach Bum Pack and Content Creator will be free.

Finally, Rockstar has said there will be a $500,000 (GTA$'s of course lol) stimulus package deposited into the accounts of all players affected, presumably those who played or tried to play during October, in two $250K installments. These deposits will take place once GTA Online has been patched and stabalized and all game progress is successfully being saved. I have already been riding around looking at new houses waiting for my check. How will you spend your stimmulus money? Houses, cars, boats, clothes, weapons? Maybe invest it in the stock market? How many of you will be making it rain and paying some young digital girls tuition? Let us know below in the comments.

Update (11-7-13): Looks like the bonus cash should be rolling out to accounts over the next few days starting now!

Source: Gamespot

Monday, November 4, 2013

Get an Early Taste of Android 4.4 KitKat

Google has been making smart moves lately breaking down many of Androids features into updates in their core apps. This strategy is a great way of getting new features directly to consumers without having to deal with carriers and manufacturers. With KitKat Android 4.4 they've taken this method a step further. Making an official Google home launcher and heavily integrating the home screen and Google Search/Google Now. The new Google Launcher allows users to easily swipe left from the home screen right into Google Now.

With the release of the factory images for KitKat developers have been able to pull some of core apps that have been updated and provide them for the rest of us to downlaod and install. They seem to work for most Android devices running Jellybean (maybe Ice Cream Sandwhich too, I've only tested JB) and I've been using a few since Friday with minimal issues. They are easy enough to install if you're familiar with sideloading apps (installing via sd/internal storage instead of the market). Be sure to go into settings, security and check "Unknown Sources" (Allow installation of apps from unknown sources) first. Then download any of the following apps. You will also need a file manager app (I use ES File Explorer) to navigate to the download folder on your phone and install the apps.

To get the new home screen and integrated google search features you must download and install the following three apps:

The only issue I've been having here is Google Search occasionally crashing, others seem to be having similar issues and it may vary from phone to phone. This seems to be able to be fixed by changing the language in Google Now/Search voice settings to anything but English (US), I used English (Generic or UK), performing a search (some say reboot here also) and then switching back to English (US). I've just left mine on English (Generic) since the fix doesn't seem to stick on my Galaxy S3 running AOSP 4.2.2. The only drawback I've seen to my method is I seem to have lost the "Ok Google" hot-word voice search feature and now have to push the mic to voice search. No big deal to me. It may have to do with Google's new enhanced hot-word voice search activation, KitKat allows user to utilize the "Ok Google" phrase to launch voice searches from the home screen Moto X style (or any screen on the Nexus 5).

Other new core Google apps can be downloaded below. Of course use with caution. Any apps that don't play well with your phone should be able to be uninstalled or downgraded so that you can return to the current version in the Play Store if necessary. I've primarily just used the new Hangouts app to test the new SMS integration, which so far isn't perfect but is a good start. It's nice being able to do most of my messaging in one app. I just hope they add more functionality to the SMS features. The new keyboard also brings the emjoi's from Hangout into anything that you can type in. Also, grab the new Android 4.4 wallpapers to get the full KitKat aesthetic experience.

Source: Phone Arena

The Nexus 5 Bumper Case

Now that I have received notice that my Nexus 5 should be here in just a few days, naturally I am starting to think about accessories. I probably won't use a case day-to-day, especially when I first get it. If the Nexus 5's soft touch plastic housing really feels like the Nexus 7's, I don't want to ruin that with a case. Honestly, I prefer my phone case-less as much as possible.

At the end of the day I always get one though. I at least get one to use on certain occasions, like when I'm working out. That case will likely come from Amazon however, and for a third the cost. The Official Nexus 5 bumper case is $34.99! A bit much in my opinion but worth a look even if for nothing else but a reference point. I'd expect Google to make their official case as near perfect as they can.

The Google bumper case looks like it is a pretty good fit. I like how it fits around the camera and that it still will allow wireless charging. I've never really cared about wireless charging, but now that my Nexus 7 and 5 will both have it. I'd definitely prefer that my case allow the use of this feature.

Check out the early review from Android Central and see what you think.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Google Nexus 5 Finally Officially Announced

This Halloween finally Google gave the Android community the treat they've been waiting on for months. The Nexus 5 was finally announced! Due to the excessive amount of leaks over the last few months there weren't many surprises, but still good to see things officially confirmed. The Nexus 5 has a 5-inch 1080p screen, 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera (with OIS), 2300 mAh battery and 4G LTE connectivity for a lot of different bands. The $350/399 (16GB/32GB) asking price is for an off contract completely unlocked phone with support for AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, sorry VZW customers no Nexus love again for you!

The long awaited Nexus 5 announcement is a treat this Halloween for tech-nerds like myself, unfortunately there was a trick in store also. The device sold out in under an hour of being announced! While caught up at work running a stupid graduation test I was unable to place my order the second it went official. By the time I was able to order my black 32GB Nexus 5, the wait was out to 2-3 weeks for 32GB and the 16GB is sold out completely. So as one countdown comes to an end a new one begins and as excited as I am about the phone I'm pissed that the wait continues. Some were lucky enough to get their orders in as soon as it went live have already received shipping confirmations, and a few lucky people have already received theirs. Google said they'd be ready to ship by November 8th for initial orders but with some coming early lets hope that maybe all the orders go out ahead of schedule.

In the mean time I'll be watching Best Buy, Amazon, Radio Shack and Sprint, who have all said they will sell the phone. I've called around a bit and most of these places don't seem to have official info on release dates, prices, or reservation processes yet. Sprint will have the phone on November 8th for $150 on contract (now taking pre-orders online for those buying on contract). I'm hoping that they will also let it go off contract at the same $350/399 price point that Google is selling it for. That will let me buy it with my Sprint account without extending my contract and then finally free me to bail on Sprint for T-Mobile as the one single Nexus 5 US model will work on Sprint, T-Mobile or AT&T. I will be buying it from whoever can get it in my hand first and cancelling my Google Play Store order if necessary. Anyone else planning on grabbing the Nexus 5?! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Nexus 5 hardware specifications
Screen4.95” 1920x1080 display (445 ppi)
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3
Camera1.3MP front facing
8MP rear facing with Optical Image Stabilization
Dimensions69.17x137.84x8.59 mm
Weight4.59 ounces (130g)
Battery2300 mAh
Talk time up to 17 hours **
Standby time up to 300 hours **
Internet use time up to 8.5 hours on WiFi, up to 7 hours on LTE **
Wireless Charging built in
AudioBuiltin speaker, 3.5mm stereo audio connector
ProcessingCPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 800, 2.26GHz
GPU: Adreno 330, 450MHz
WirelessDualband WiFi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
NFC (Android Beam)
Bluetooth 4.0
Networks (North America)GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10
WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41
Networks (Rest of World)GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8
LTE: Bands: 1/3/5/7/8/20
MemoryChoose 16GB or 32GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less)
Ports and ConnectorsmicroUSB
SlimPort™ enabled
3.5mm stereo audio jack
Dual microphones
Ceramic power and volume buttons
Proximity/Ambient Light