How to buy a Future Proof Android device

The guys at Apple magazine recently put a Samsung Galaxy S4 on its cover. For an independent magazine to do such a thing is tantamount to a sellout. Don’t matter if you are going to bash the device, it is never a good idea to put an Android product on an Apple Magazine, and here’s why.

It’s a hard look at future proofing your device, giving you the liberty to do more and have more fun. Apple iOS lost it. The innovation has come to a dead-end and you can safely predict the hardware spec on the next iPad or iPhone without gazing into a crystal ball. Apple has become very predictable in its choice of upgrades and you’d fall asleep once Tim Cook takes the stage. Apple Magazine could well be the next Android magazine if no new devices are coming out of Apple anytime soon.

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Tips for Choosing your Next Android

Smart Phones or Tablets? The choices are aplenty, but how do you buy one so that you won’t be out of date within 18 months? We all want a device for doing something we love and Android has it all, but how do you make sure you have a device that will last you the distance? With new models coming out every quarter, it becomes very difficult to choose one that will do the job without being outdated. Here is a list of things to watch out for.

1. Quad Core Processor

Forget the dual core, you need at least four cores to run things smoothly. The Octo-core processors will eventually make its debut within the next 12 months so you need a head start with a quad-core device. By early 2014, Octo-cores will be standard fare.

2. 2GB RAM minimum

This is the actual RAM on board the device. Forget the 1GB RAM devices, those are out of date. You need more RAM because true multi-tasking is just not possible without it. 3GB or more would be ideal if you can afford to get your paws on that one. By end 2o13, 2GB will be outdated. Going into 2014-15, you need to have at least 4GB of RAM to stomach future apps. Coz apps are getting bigger and they need more room to move around. Custom Launchers too like Chameleon need lots of free RAM to look slick. Bane or Bonus, custom launchers are here to stay. Many don’t work well now because of a lack of free RAM space.

3. More Internal Storage Please

Given the size of these apps, you need more internal storage. The 8GB and 16GB devices are passe, you need more coz there are more apps now on Google Play than ever. To future proof your purchase, you need 32GB of internal storage in 2013. Double that to 64GB in 2014-2015. There is also the issue of bloatware, which of course will reside in internal storage when you boot up. Bloatware on carrier branded devices could cost you a few hundred MB of RAM space.

4. Expandable Card Slot is a MUST

Got a cool device but no slot for additional external storage? Then you are screwed! The humble microSD card is getting cheaper and coming in at 64GB, you would be a fool not to have one. The external storage card can be very useful if you happen to consume media like crazy.  Got a load of MP3? Some movie files in MKV? Bring it on. You store all your files here. For some Camera Apps, you can specify a directory within your SD storage where it will save all the files. The card slot is your ticket to mass media consumption. You need this to put your music or your porn regardless of what turns you on.

5. Eight megapixel is Enough

You don’t need a 13 or 12 megapixel camera, just 8 will be enough. The reason is simple. The bigger the megapixel, the larger the file will be. No point shooting something to share when you only need 5 megapixel at most. So 8 megapixel will be just fine for everything else. What’s more, you can’t possibly rely on that tiny BI sensor to deliver pro quality images for print. It is a different beast you need to capture those photos. However for a social media whore, dang….8 megapixel make me look good! Don’t be fooled into thinking about those 16 megapixel shooters— which will be standard fare in 2014. Stay safe, shoot with 8 megapixels my friend.

6. Get a Great Color Display

I was deeply disappointed with the Galaxy Note 10.1 as the display was pretty poor. I am also pretty disappointed with the Galaxy Note 8 display too. You gotta know that a good display makes it all the more pleasing to use and trust me on this one. I find myself using my Galaxy Tab 7.7 more than my Asus TF300 just because the display is so pleasing to look at. There are many to choose from FHD OLED, Super AMOLED, Retina Display, TFT, Super LCD3, etc. Which one suits you best? Well it’s really up to you. A better screen is a joy to behold.

The Last Word

I don’t believe that a gadget you buy will last you forever. Every 12 months or so, a new gadget arrives but there are some which cost more that offers some future proofing. For example, the Galaxy S4, with 32GB internal storage and 2GB RAM can last you into the end of 2015. But a 16GB version will be very restrictive and chances are you’ll ante up to a new device by end 2014.

Apple products fortunately are made to last longer because of its poor hardware upgrades. If you have an iOS device, chances are you can use it for a good 18 months before the hardware becomes restrictive. Today, we see iPads with 128GB of storage. Tomorrow, we can expect to see 32GB iPhones as standard. Rumors of a cheap iPhone does not make sense. If you have poor hardware, people will compare that with Android devices and choose something from HTC  or Asus. A cheaper iPhone already exist in the form of the overpriced iPhone 4s and 4. If you need a second phone, the iPhone 4 fits the bill. If Apple offers an even cheaper iPhone, it’s one that would look more like the 3GS—gutted to fit a new processor and limited 16GB RAM.

The second biggest market for the iPhone is China, but the China Appstore is one that doesn’t make any money for Apple because of the rampant fraud that goes on with Appstore credits used to buy online media and apps. It just doesn’t make sense to make a cheaper iPhone for just that market.

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Galaxy S4: Great Gadget, but Battery life is Doubtful

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I think Samsung has a winner with the S4, though Apple fanboys will attest to it as a boring update. Personally I do think that the biggest rubbish to come out of Apple is the upgrade from iPhone 4S to iPhone 5 where you have a stretched screen and little hardware improvement. The Samsung S4 makes two clean hardware improvements over the S3 with the display and camera. The FHD OLED display is 441ppi while the camera has been upped to 13mp from 8mp. Then you also have 2GB RAM. Try comparing the iPhone 4S to the 5 and you won’t find such hardware leaps so to me, tech blogs which extol the “boringness” of the revised Samsung hardware are truly Myopic in foresight and Neandertal in hindsight.

Why is RAM important?

I have always had issues with devices with low RAM, including iOS devices. For true multitasking to work, you need 2GB of RAM. Not the paltry 1GB found in older Androids an iOS devices. The iPad mini only has 512MB of RAM, which to me is an absolute insult to tech buffs, but they never complained about it.

Multitasking does not exist on iOS, they have a Jedi mind trick to make you believe you have multi-tasking as long as you are listening to the music and surfing the Internet at the same time. But that’s not to say it is a bad thing, you have less problems with apps fighting to gain your attention and this goes some way to preventing system freezing and lagging.

Social media apps that gives you constant notification are some of the RAM hogs on Android, chief of them is Facebook which occupies roughly 20+megs of RAM. If you have several photo sharing, social media, and IM services running, you will notice that your RAM availability is severely limited, and with 1GB of RAM (which adds up to roughly 800+ MB after formating) you are not left with much storage to run other more pertinent apps.

The S3 released in the US had 2GB of RAM, and as such, is good value for money. The S3 International version only has 1GB of RAM.

2GB is about right but I hear the new LG will have up to 3GB of RAM. Androids with more RAM will run better. You’d be damn lucky if Apple adds 2GB of RAM onto the next iPhone 6.

Processor Questions

Samsung Galaxy S4 sports a quad core processor for the US, at least on paper, while there is also a rumored Octo-core processor for overseas release.

This sound zippy but I like to throw caution into the wind with such claims. The octo-core processor sounds ilke a great idea but has so far been unproven. I have a quad core Tegra device and that never really showed its real abilities even after switching on four cores to runs games and apps.

One reason I believe is the limited amount of RAM. If your RAM is all but used out, it makes it extremely hard for the processor to go any faster.

S4 Battery is Doubtful

For the record, I would like to state that the S4 with the spanking new quad or octo-core will need more battery juice to run, so will the Full HD OLED screen. This is why I have serious doubts about Samsung’s claims of the 2600 mAh battery lasting the whole 12 hours under normal use.

One of the problems is that social media apps tend to hog data streams—requiring constant updates and refreshes. When you have a handful of them running, your battery life will be impaired. Manufacturers never based their battery usage benchmark on social media and as such, you have been warned!

By the way, the S4 has the same spec battery on the original Galaxy Note and even with moderate use, it gives you roughly 10 hours. And we are talking about a AMOLED screen for the GN! The Full HD OLED of the S4 is a 5inch screen! It has been debated that the FHD OLED screen consumes less power than Super AMOLED but you have to use real world results to really compare that. Both these technologies are similar and both are touted to be more power efficient than retina displays. But in FHD OLED versus AMOLED, the significance in battery consumption may be negligible between the S3 and S4.

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Having used the Super AMOLED on GN, I think the battery life is overstated. By saying it last a day (24 hours of use) is a bit misleading. In most days, it last between 8 to 10 hours of actual use. The S4 comes pretty close to this, give or take a few hours. When you use a Battery Monitor like Battery Status Plus, the one thing that consumes the most battery juice is the screen! So if you happen to leave it on running without using the screen (impossible to gauge ) you will probably have 24 hours or more with one charge.

The problem as I have pointed out are Social Media and Message apps, each time you get a notification, you turn to your device to check—consuming screen time and battery. You are constantly engaging the screen when you use the device and do this often enough, your batteries will need a recharge.

Conclusion

The S4 is a great gadget, and if you are not a born again social media whore, you’d be quite safe from the battery niggles as I have pointed out. The camera’s capability remains to be proven, though the specs are impressive. It is one of the first to use Omnivisions’ 13 mp f2.0 sensor lenses. I haven’t tested it myself so I won’t add any fuel to the fire.

There is also an option for wireless charging, used long ago on Palm smartphones, and an optional gamepad. This is important as it shows that the Samsung Appstore is finally preparing itself to take on the world with games developed for Samsung S4 devices. The gamepad will make it easier for developers to optimize their app gameplay which at this moment, suck big time from control related issues. Racing simulators and FPS will benefit immensely from this.

I don’t give much attention to the “air hover” or “face tracking” features. These sound gimmicky. Watching a whole movie on the S4 is nothing short of ridiculous unless you have a spare battery pack.

The priorities for a smartphone these days are mainly for messaging, calls, SMS, camera, and social media. You might throw in some music playback but beyond that there is hardly anything which you might want to do with your phone unless you’re married to a wall socket.

Right now, I just want to know how much the S4 is going to cost. This, in the end, will be the ultimate deciding factor.

Why is my microSD card READ-only?

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I was on my way to do some shopping with I dropped by a Gadget shop to say hello since I was a regular, then I saw this aghast face of my friend working there who told me that her microSD card of her brand new Galaxy Note 2 is infected with viruses and she now has to find a way to extract her valuable photos and videos before formatting it. She put the microSD into a card reader and inserted it in her Windows PC. Tried as she did, her files in the microSD was READ-only.

Before you jump up yelling and screaming, let me assure you that this “phenomena” is nothing extraordinary. I noticed that this security function was pushed out in ICS and later adopted in Jellybean as well. As far as I know, Samsung and Asus devices have this new fangled protection. I was wondering why this was the case but since I found a work around for it, I don’t have a problem transferring large files from my computer to any mobile device.

What is Google doing to your microSD card?

I can only hazard a guess on what Google was up to when they did this but apparently it has to do with DRM. Your files in the microSD card cannot be copied over. Since the SD or microSD card has been relegated to external storage, all you movie files, music and such will be locked onto that card. Now some of you might say, heck, I can transfer those files via BUMP but unfortunately it does not handle file sizes above 20MB. This might be fine for some MP3 files but not movie files which are in excess of 400MB.

Bluetooth transfer is another possibility but it takes just far too long to send a movie file over. WIFI is of course faster but with file limits built in, it doesn’t quite make sense. If you have found any better way to do this, do share with us.

Cloud Storage

Yes, you can upload to the cloud and take it back down again but there are limits for file sizes as well. These range from 40mb per file to something under 150MB. For paying subscribers to Box and Dropbox services, the file limit is much higher.

But it doesn’t make sense to store stuff there unless you got some unlimited 4G bandwidth to bring it down again. Small files are fine.

My Storage card is Locked?

Apparently it is not. You can still transfer and extract files if you use a USB cable connection. The microSD card has to be INSIDE your device when you do this.

  1. Take out your trusty USB cable for your Smartphone or Tablet
  2. Turn on the File Transfer Software you have on your PC/Mac.
  3. Connect your Tablet/Smartphone with your PC or Mac
  4. Under Settings, connect your Phone/Tablet in USB as MTP (media transfer protocol)

For Mac OSX and Windows PC. 

Download Android File Transfer from here if you don’t already have something like Samsung Kies. OSX does not recognize MTP as a separate storage. For some older HTC Smartphones, Android File Transfer doesn’t work.

For PC, it should pop up as an external storage. Or if you prefer, just connect with the Windows software that came with your phone (HTC and LG).

 AFT Usage on Mac

Android File Transfer for Mac can only transfer ONE file at a time so you can’t queue it. Though I like Samsung Kies Air on my Note, it is not compatible with my Asus. Kies Air is probably a better option if you want to copy multiple files from your PC to your Android device.

Windows users are safer as they have no problem accessing the files via their file manager, though I am not sure if this would work in Windows 8.

 

DOSS: Asimom Bluetooth Speakers for your Mobile Device

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It sounds silly but that’s what you learn to expect from the Chinese who have made this nifty speaker called the Asimom. DOSS stands for Dream of Smart Sound and it is not a wordplay on the fashion label “BOSS” which many believe to be another trusted Chinese method of ripping off brand labels to decorate their wares. However I would testify that this is not the case and it just stems from the written fact that Chinese have very little understanding on brand name conventions.

The speaker’s performance is very similar to my JBL OnTime 200P but with far less output. The Asimom only throws out 1.5 watts of sound while the JBL gives out 6 watts x 2. Yes, the Asimom is a mono speaker and that kinda sucks but heck, this thing cost only US$50 bucks compared to the JBL’s US$199 price tag. What I am more concerned with is the sound quality which unfortunately doesn’t get any better with a JBL. What’s more, the JBL can’t be used as a Bluetooth speaker. Both speakers are poor with bass output (notice the Frequency response of between : 65HZ-20KHZ). For good bass output, you need to have the lower frequencies touching 10KHZ.

The one I have is a import model from China but it does come with an English voice notification alongside it’s Mandarin counterpart. When you switch it on, a male voice tells you that it’s ready to connect. You will also be notified by this same voice once pairing is completed.

Before you write off the DOSS speakers, allow me to state that this is probably one of the better value for money gadgets you can add to your arsenal of toys.

  • 1 DOSS Asimom Bluetooth Speaker
  • Model: Doss DS-1168
  • Material: Metal
  • Power: 1.5W
  • Frequency: 65HZ-20KHZ
  • THD: <0.5%
  • S/N: ≥86DB
  • Separating Degree: ≥55dB
  • Bluetooth compatibility: Bluetooth V2.1+EDR Version
  • Body battery: 3.7V 500mA
  • Base battery: 3.7V 1020mA
  • USB charge voltage: DC 5V 500mA
  • Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, tablet PC, notebook or any device with Bluetooth connection
  • Product weight: 350 g
  • Package weight: 491 g
  • Multifunctional charger with speaker and microphone functions
  • Portable and ergonomic design
  • The base part can be used as an emergency charger for mobile electronic equipment
  • Intelligent voice prompt for answering calls with humanised design

I would like to digress into the intelligent voice prompts. I am sure you’d be quite affected by the male voice speaking in Chinese then in broken English (a probable direct translation from google translate). I found it annoying. Each time it runs low on power the prompt comes out.

Then there is the voice prompt that tells you it is activated. Also damn annoying. And no, I haven’t found a way to turn it off, nor do I think it is possible.

There is also a button for answering mobile phone calls should you be streaming Bluetooth audio to the speaker. That said, I won’t be going wild over this feature.

USB Charging

There are no plugs, just a USB charging cable and an AUX stereo cable. If Bluetooth is not your thing, you can still go the wired route.

The USB base that is used to charge the speaker can also be adapted to charge any USB device but DC charging is only at 5V at 500mA. This ia not very useful if you are charging a tablet or iPad that needs a minimum of 10V.

Conclusion

DOSS is great for voice audio or for that matter, any music audio that features human voices. Streaming Internet talk radio into the speaker is first rate. Music wise, you’d best left the dance numbers out of the equation since it doesn’t quite give you the strong bass frequencies.

But the decision to buy or not to buy lies with the price and at 50 bucks, its good value for money. You can of course put this in your car and have that pair automatically with your smartphone. The in-car charging adapter needed for this can easily be purchased so it is not a big deal when it comes to car use.

Yea, I do recommend this if you are in the market for a cheap Bluetooth speaker that is mono rather than stereo.