Author: Clinton

Review – Huawei Mate 9 – A Powerful & Impressive Phablet

Huawei, and their junior brand Honor, continue to make strides in the US market.  The Chinese manufacture has rolled out several phones and tablets over the past year and one of the latest, the Huawei Mate 9, is nothing short of impressive.  The 5.9″ phablet has a stunning display, powerful specs and is running the all new EMUI 5.0, Huawei’s user interface based on Android Nougat 7.0.  Couple this with a dual-camera configuration that leverages Leica optics and a beefy 4000mAh battery, you end up with a device that not only can handle your mobile computing needs but can take some seriously impressive photos while lasting you all day.  It is a pretty complete package and a far cry better than the 2015 Mate 8 (which wasn’t all that bad).

I recently had an opportunity to use the Mate 9 and I’m sold.  If you are in the market for a larger device that can meet your phone and small tablet needs, this phablet should be on your shortlist.  Here’s my review of the Huawei Mate 9.

T-Mobile Releases Nougat Update for The HTC One M8

You read the headline right.  T-Mobile has released the Android Nougat update for the now three year old HTC One M8.  The update has passed final Q&A within the carrier and is now starting to hit customer phones.  The news is a little bit of a surprise for a couple of different reasons.  First, did I mention that the One M8 is three years old?  It was released in March 2014 and as a general rule, anything over two years doesn’t see a major update.

Second, the One M8 runs on the Snapdragon 801 processor.  While it was a solid processor at the time, Qualcomm has since stopped supporting it.  Further, because of the lack of support, many manufactures did not update devices running the 801.  Sony would be probably the most notable of those who decided not to update their older devices.

Today’s Deal – Sony Xperia X Compact Down to $349 on Amazon

Today’s Deal is on a great phone that I reviewed a few months ago.  The Sony Xperia X Compact has a lot of punch in a little package and right now, it is on sale for $349 at Amazon.  Normally this 4.6″ phone is $499, so this is a healthy amount of savings.  It is powered by the Snapdragon 650 hexa-core processor.  It has four 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores &  two 1.8 GHz Cortex-A72 cores.  The processor is coupled with the Adreno 510 GPU which provides good graphics performance.  The X Compact has 3GB of RAM onboard and has 32GB of built-in storage.  That storage can be expanded up to an additional 256GB thanks to the Micro SD slot that is built into the SIM tray of the phone.

Display wise, the Xperia X Compact has a 4.6″ IPS LCD display that renders at 720 x 1280.  That gives you 319 ppi which is low compared to other devices out there.  I caution readers to consider that this device has a much smaller display so 319 ppi is actually very comfortable on this screen size.  Indeed for comparison, the iPhone 6 had 329 ppi so we aren’t talking about a massive difference from even larger devices.  The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3.

Google Play Store Now Has a Free App of the Week

Over the weekend, Google pushed a behind-the-scenes update to the Google Play Store.  Now, once the update hits your account, you will see a new Free App of the Week section in the store.  Now you will be able to download a normally pay-to-play app at no charge.  It is certainly not a new concept but it is great to see Google getting on board with such programs.  Apple has had this for some time now while Amazon likely has the most aggressive free app model with their Amazon Underground.  There you can not only get apps for free that you normally have to pay for but also get free in-app purchases.  The Google offer does not give you free in-app purchases.  Those are still on you.

This week’s free app is Card Wars from Cartoon Network.  Normally it is $2.99 but for the rest of this week, it is free.

Chrome OS Update Brings Big Changes to The Platform

The Chromium team within Google has released Chrome OS Build 57 to the stable channel, bringing a significant number of changes and improvements to the platform.  The new build is 57.0.2987.123 (Platform version: 9202.56.1) and it is available on a wide range of devices running the Operating System.  There are some exceptions however including the AOpen Chromebase Mini, AOpen Chromebox Mini, Google Chromebook Pixel (2015), ASUS Chromebook Flip C302,  ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA, Samsung Chromebook Plus,  and the Acer Chromebook R13 (CB5 – 312T).  Other devices will have the update pushed to it or you can manually check for the update now.  My Acer Chromebook 14 has already received the update.

There are a lot of changes happening in this update including an updated default wallpaper and an update boot animation from a visual perspective.  Media files from Android apps are now available in the Files application on your Chromebook, making it easier to get to them and share them.  PIN unlocking is also available now for all Chromebooks.

Google Hangouts Dropping SMS Support – But Not for Project Fi Users

Google has sent notifications out to G Suite customers that in starting next week, a warning will show up in Google Hangouts that SMS will no longer be supported.  That support will end on May 22nd.  The notification and change is part of the overall strategy of Google to move their G Suite customers to the new Google Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat while leveraging Android Messages for SMS on Android devices.  For consumers, the focus is on Google Allo and Duo to meet these communications needs.

For those readers who are on Project Fi (I am one of them) or using Google Voice, this change does not impact you.  This change only impacts G Suite customers who are using carrier numbers to send and receive SMS messages.  This fits along with what Google told me earlier this month at the Google Next Cloud event in San Francisco.

Instagram Rolling Out Two-Factor Authentication

After a limited rollout nearly a year ago, Instagram has rolled out two-factor authentication to all users.  The new security feature can be enabled through settings and once it is done, it will require that you authenticate not only with your password but with a SMS code sent to you phone.  This will only be required if you log out of the app and not every time you use it (assuming you keep yourself logged in).

Two-Factor authentication is something I highly encourage readers to enable on all their accounts, especially social networks.  It significantly cuts down on your risk of your account being compromised.  Yes it is a pain to have to deal with but it is better than the alternative.

Today’s Deal – Nextbit Robin in Mint Down to $149

Over at Amazon you can still pick up the Nextbit Robin for $149.   I reviewed the Robin a few months ago and at the time I said it was a pretty good deal at $299.  At $149, it is one of the best deals on a phone with these specs out there right now.  Over the holidays the phone was $169 on Amazon so this price drop makes it the lowest price the phone has ever been available.

For those that don’t recall, the Nextbit Robin has some great features and offers a unique device-meets-cloud storage solution.  It has 32GB of onboard storage merged with 100 GB online storage, so you always have the space you need. Robin seamlessly backs up your apps and photos, intelligently archives the stuff you’re not using, and easily restores items when you need them.  The idea is that you never run out of space.  Those less used apps are backed up into the cloud but then are instantly available when you want them.  You’ll know an app has been backed up into the cloud as it will be grey on your Robin.  You can read my review of the Robin to see all my thoughts on this great little phone.  I also think it is perhaps one of the most underrated phones of 2016.

Rogue One – A Star Wars Story Now Available For Purchase

The day has finally arrived Star Wars fans.  Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story is now available for purchase in the Google Play Movies & TV Store.  The movie has been available to add to your wishlist since January and was one of the most successful movies of 2016.  The movie is set between the much maligned prequels and A New Hope, the original Star Wars movie, focusing on a band of Rebels who are trying to steal the plans to the Death Star.  If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it and see what you missed.  It has become one of my favorite movies in the franchise.

The movie is $19.99 in HD.  Right now there is not a rental option nor is there a UHD option for the movie.

Google Assistant Starts Rolling to The OnePlus 3 & 3T

OnePlus took to Twitter today with some good news for OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T owners.  Google Assistant is coming your way.  The built in assistant, which Google announced was coming to all devices running Marshmallow and Nougat, has been slowly making the rounds as manufactures work with Google to get it on their devices.  OnePlus is just one of the latest but it is good to see that manufactures aren’t standing in the way of getting it out to customers.

If you own a 3 or a 3T, like other devices who have already received Google Assistant, there isn’t anything you need to do other than make sure you have the latest build of the Google Search app on your phone.  That more-or-less tells Google your phone is ready to be updated on the backend.

Nextbit Robin Beta Testers Now Working on Nougat 7.1.1

With the release of Android Nougat 7.0 for beta testers and soon customers, Nextbit Robin beta testers are now turning their attention to Nougat 7.1.1 testing.  Beta testers were informed today that the 7.1.1 build would soon be pushed to their registered devices in the closed beta, with emphasis on bug fixing and testing out of features specific to that build.  Part of the good news for beta testers is that the build will also have the March Android Security Update.

At this point, if you are a Robin owner, it is difficult to get into the beta program but not impossible.  You can find out details about the program in this post in the Nextbit Community forums.

Google Trips Update Brings Ability to Manually Add Reservations

Google Trips has seen its second update this week, bringing two new features that users will appreciate.  First, you now have the ability to manually add hotel and airline reservations to a trip.  Previously, there was no way to do this and the only way to get reservations into a trip was by having it automatically added via Gmail.  Now when you go into a trip within the app, you will see a FAB (Floating Action Button) which will now let you add flight and hotel information.

The other big change in this update is that Google Trips will now watch your Gmail for bus and train travel and add those automatically to your trips.  This expands the apps ability in searching Gmail as previously only hotel and airline information was automatically added.