Apple HomePod smart speaker announced

News release supplied by Apple Inc.

Apple HomePod announced

SAN JOSE, California — June 5, 2017 — Apple today announced HomePod, a breakthrough wireless speaker for the home that delivers amazing audio quality and uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio. Continue reading “Apple HomePod smart speaker announced”

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

Samsung galaxy tab s3 2 how toTablets are now as much a part of our lives as laptops, and desktops, and in some cases, they take over those roles. They can because tablets have much more power and versatility than ever.  I recently had a chance to play with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Regular readers will know I’ve been an Apple user for much of the last 6-8 years so I’m finding it very interesting branching out to explore new brands and getting to know Android.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – first look

The tablet is a very good sized 9.7″ device, though it does have a wide bezel all the way around the screen. I found that unusual right away, only because Samsung’s new Galaxy phones are basically all screen. Nonetheless, this screen is still large and vibrant. The tablet is impossibly thin with a nice rounded edge it feels good to hold in your hand and it’s not slippery. There’s also a physical home button on the face that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.

The device comes with a special pen that allows you to write on screen or otherwise control the tablet.

Though I didn’t get to sample this feature, you can also attach a magnetic keyboard to the Tab S3 to help provide an easier typing experience if you’re going to use it like a laptop.

Introducing the Samsung S-pen

Samsung galaxy tab s3 pen how it worksThe pen is relatively small and weighs next to nothing. Several smart pens I’ve tried before are fat, bulky, heavy, and make it very uncomfortable to write. The Samsung pen feels like your favourite pen; the one you want to grab for constantly when you need to take notes.

Using the pen to write on the screen is a surprisingly comfortable experience. If you’ve ever used a stylus on a glass screen before you know it feels kind of weird, but in this case the pen’s contact with the screen feels much more natural, almost as if you were putting pen to paper. None of that metal to glass scrape.

Amazingly, the pen never requires charging, I think that’s because the technology is built into the screen as opposed to the pen. So really it’s just acting as a stylus. The small 0.7 mm pen tip is very natural for writing. Unlike some other pens or styluses, you’re not blocking your view of the letters you’re forming behind the pen nib.

Turn handwriting into type or make notes with screen off

samsung write on screen off galaxy tab s3With the pen function you can write notes that are than digitized into typed format, you can draw pictures, edit videos, or even jot something down when the screen is locked. That ‘screen off memo’ function almost looks like chalk on a chalk board, and it’s a super handy and quick way to write yourself a memo.

Using handwriting to text feature

To use the handwriting-to-text feature, do a long press on the microphone button on the virtusal keyboard on screen this will bring up the bottom screen where you can hand write texts that will then be converted to tight text in the top screen

Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The home screen displays easy access to Weather information and time, as well as the typical Google search screen. There are numerous apps pre-installed on the device including Netflix, YouTube, and the full suite of Google apps. Anything else you need is as close as the Google Play store.Samsung galaxy tab s3 2 how to

The tablet features a 9.7 inch QXGA SAMOLED display that’s HDR video compatible to give you great looking programs.

Here’s where we’ll learn a little something while we’re here; HDR or High Dynamic Range (in a nutshell) makes colours bolder by using light more realistically.

What is QXGA? What’s AMOLED?

Without going into too much detail, QXGA stands for Quantum Extended Graphics Array—it’s is a computer display mode that has enough pixels to offer fine details — more like print on paper, and it’s great for people that want to see all the details or multiple images — and for gaming. the downside is that it’s expensive.

Finally, since we’re playing professor, AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) is a display technology used in smartwatches, mobile devices, laptops, and TVs. You’ve heard of LED or OLED TVs — Light emitting diode — that’s just the the ultra thin film display technology that uses organic compounds to create the display.
Ok lesson over!

The all glass design is sleek and shiny, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too delicate. In the construction of glass and metal have been fused together though it doesn’t feel heavy or metallic

Typing on the tablet is quick and responsive. With some other tablets I’ve tried it almost feels like there’s a lag between the time you press the button and the time the action takes place. With this tablet it felt very instantaneous.

Galaxy Tab S3 has faster performance

The tablet has made some improvements on previous versions; it’s 18% faster than galaxy tab S2, and the graphics load three times faster than the S 2. You can thank the snapdragon 820 processor inside for that.

4 built in speakers in Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

There are four speakers on this tablet for much better audio performance. The speakers that play will automatically adjust to the orientation of the tablet, ensuring you’re always getting the best sound.

Galaxy Tab S3 made for gaming

These tablets are made for gaming too. Though gaming isn’t something I’m into, it’s worth mentioning here. “The Galaxy game launcher it has been optimized for Galaxy Tab S3’s screen, offering a power saver mode, game broadcasting, and mute games or ongoing calls mode,” according to Samsung.Samsung galaxy tab s3 multi window

How to use multi-function window or split screen

Conveniently the tablet also runs Android’s newest operating system, Nougat, which allows you to open two windows at the same time. The ‘multi-function window’ as it’s called is a bit weird to get used to using. When an app is open in full screen view, just press and hold the recents key, then select another app to open by tapping the double rectangle in the top right corner of the second app.

How to close multi function window 

I was mystified about how to close the multifunction window. I thought I could do it by following the same procedure that I did to open it, but not so. You’ll need to grab the blue slider bar that splits the screen, and drag it up and right off the screen. The second window will wipe away.

Battery & charging

The S3 charges very quickly. You can get up to 12 hours of video playback with less downtime according to Samsung. The onboard battery is a 6000 mAh battery, which should last from 8-12 hours, depending on usage.

Tab S3 Camera

I’ve always found it awkward to use a camera on a tablet, though I’ve seen people doing it at national parks and the like. if you’re one of those people, you can look forward to a main camera resolution of thirteen megapixels while the front camera is five megapixels. A flash and auto focus are included.

Overall review – Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung galaxy tab s3Since my hands-on experience with Android devices has been limited, I felt like this as a whole new experience for me. I don’t have previous Tabs to compare to, so I’m coming at this as a completely new device.

Overall, I liked the tab S3. It’s light and easy to use and hold; it feels good in my hands. The screen is large and detailed, clear and vibrant.

The functions seemed fast and there was almost no lag.

I found some of the functions like using the handwriting to text or the multi window feature to be anything but intuitive. I had to go online and look up how to do some things. Perhaps that’s my lack of familiarity with Android, but my feeling about smartphones and devices is that you should be able to figure things out without research.

In short if you’re looking for an Android tablet that’s fast, sleek, sizeable and great looking, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a great pick.

Get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 for about $599 US and $799 CAD.

24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8

How do you know if a smartphone can be right for you? Many people get their first hands-on experience with a new phone while standing in a retail store or browsing online. It’s not a very elegant way to decide whether or not you’re going to make a commitment to something that will be in your hands and part of your most intimate moments likely for the next 2 to 3 years. Ideally, instead, you’d get to hold it and get a real feel for it, try out the camera, interact with the device and its apps, and use it as if it were your own before you decide. I had a rare chance to do exactly that with the Samsung Galaxy S8 before its public launch. But this was no ordinary review opportunity. Continue reading “24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8”

Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds review

Until now truly wireless earbuds have been a bit of a myth. ‘Wireless’ has meant that the phones will connect with Bluetooth, so they don’t need a connector between the phone and your device, but they often come with a wire connecting the left to right earbud. While that’s been an ok option, some people find it distracting and annoying to have a cable flapping around your neck while doing certain activities. Enter Samsung’s new Gear IconX earbuds. With not a wire in sight, these earbuds are among the first to be totally and truly wireless. The small thumb-sized earbuds wedge right into your ears for a good slip-free fit, and connect seamlessly and wirelessly to your Samsung device whenever you pop them in. Continue reading “Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds review”

Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada

There’s a new provider of mobile and wireless accessories like cables, power banks and charging gadgets. Ventev, a US-based maker of gadgetry and smartphone gear, has arrived in Canada.

I recently had a chance to try out some of the gear, and was very impressed with its durability, sleek styling, simple design and versatility. Continue reading “Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada”

Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016

I’ve tested a lot of gadgets and gear this year. Picking favourites is hard, because unlike previous years, many of the items that have come into the tech test kitchen in 2016 are really high quality, and work well, so picking the cream of the crop is a challenge. Nevertheless, here are the Top 10 tech gadgets I highly recommend having in your life. Continue reading “Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016”

New Google Pixel phone launches in Canada: review

Google Pixel Phone front pinkIt’s probably one of the most anticipated smart phone launches in years. Google’s new Pixel phone is now out on the market and I was able to get my hands on one in advance for testing and review. Pixel is the first ever phone designed end to end by Google and it launches October 20, 2016. Continue reading “New Google Pixel phone launches in Canada: review”

Why is my tech broken? Why do my devices crash? Why is technology unreliable? How can I fix it?

pixellated tvI’ve tested a LOT of technology, gadgets and devices as a tech writer, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that most gadgets will require regular maintenance to keep working well.

Just like your car, the fluids need to be topped up, and when you hear a rattle you need to take it to a mechanic and get it looked at to prevent a bigger problem down the road. It’s the same thing with all the high tech gadgets we buy; you’ve got to do your part to keep them in good working order.

Why is my tech not working?

In the last few months alone, I’ve had home automation devices stop working, smart light bulbs cease to function, headphones that crashed constantly, and many other devices where they’ve just stopped working altogether, or only function intermittently.  Here’s a few common reasons why your devices may not be performing as they should.

1. Software/Firmware Updates Need to be Done

What’s the difference – Firmware vs Software

For starters, what’s the difference between firmware and software? Software is a program you run, often designed to run on a computer’s hard drive.  Usually software is something you, the user, adds to your arsenal of programs by choice. Firmware is software that’s embedded my a manufacturer into a device, that’s absolutely essential to it running. Firmware often lives inside a tiny chip deep within your device.

With that said, some products bring in constant firmware or software updates, like every couple of weeks. Others far less frequently. The key is, when your device gives you those push messages that say it’s time to update, don’t ignore them.  Updates are designed to remove bugs, patch security flaws and keep things running smoothly.  That’s why when you call a tech support hotline for help, the first thing they’ll ask is if your device is up to date.

2. Integration with your phone is not quite perfect yet

Have you ever tried to write a program for an app or device?  Yeah, me either.  It’s frikking hard, time consuming and expensive. That’s why a lot of companies will start by writing a program for just one smartphone OS, and bring in the second one later.

Why is there only an Apple App for that?

Often the development team has a preference for one device or operating system over others.  Why? This article from The Guardian explains it pretty well: “Developing iOS apps means ensuring they work nicely on a small range of iPhones and/or iPads: generally 6-8 different devices depending how far back the developer wants to go. On Android, it’s a different story: nearly 12,000 different devices out there in the hands of people, with a wider range of screen sizes, processors and versions of the Android software still in use. Many developers’ lack of enthusiasm for Android is down to concerns not just about the costs of making and testing their apps for it, but also the resources required to support them once they’re launched, if emails flood in about unspotted bugs on particular models.”

So to that point, keeping every single device out there running smoothly with your software or firmware is no easy feat. So that means if you’re having troubles you can try waiting it out until the next batch of updates, and hope that helps.

3. The product wasn’t quite ready for market, but they released it anyway

I’ve tested numerous products this year where it feels like the company’s gadget was definitely not ready for public release, but they started shipping devices anyway. Selling units helps get cash flowing in, which in turn helps pay for customer and tech support, which is one reason companies might release a not-quite-ready gadget or device.  The other reason a product might hit the market too soon?  There’s no better way to beta test something than to put it in the hands of thousands of users and see what happens.  At that point, you need to hope they have really good customer service and fast developers to get things working well quickly.

Did I get a bum device or a dud gadget?

4. It’s a dud.

There’s another reason your gadget or device may be causing you to pull your hair out. It’s a bad apple.  From where I’m sitting right now, I can see four smart gadgets/devices that have had to be replaced within hours, or weeks of getting them, because they were duds.

How do you know if they’re duds?  I’d say these days, if you’re spending any more than an hour on set up or installation and it’s not working properly, you may have a did. Today, most quality, well-made devices are set up and ready to go in less than 15 minutes.  Any longer than that and you might have a problem.  If you’ve been fighting with a gadget for more than an hour, or repeating the set up process over and over and getting nowhere, contact your company’s help line.  They can — and will —tell you if you have a bad device. And in 100% of the cases where this has happened to me, they’ve replaced it within days, at no cost to me, and the new one has worked smoothly.

How can I fix my malfunctioning tech?

So to get back to the original question: what can you do to keep your stuff running smoothly?

  1. Plan to update your device.  When an update is ready, do it.  That will decrease the liklihood of problems.
  2. Don’t ignore problems, especially early. If a device keeps crashing your computer, performing poorly or otherwise driving you crazy, call tech support and get it dealt with. If it requires a replacement device, that’s easier done a month in, rather than leaving it three or four months because you’re just too frustrated to deal with it.
  3. Keep your receipts/order numbers. All my receipts and manuals for major purchases go in one drawer, so they’re always easy to find. You’ll likely need some kind of proof of purchase to get help or a replacement.  If it’s a gift, you can always redact (black out) the price and make a copy of the invoice or receipt for the recipient.
  4. Don’t take no for an answer. If you have your receipt, and are having legitimate troubles with a device and tech support can’t help you, don’t accept that.  I recently dealt with a company that basically told me of its malfunctioning gadget, “we don’t know what to do.. soo..”. That’s not good enough.  Ask to speak to a supervisor, who often has more experience, and the authority to do something for you.

Having specific problems with your smart light bulbs?  Try a reset.  Read my blog on How to reset Your Smart Light Bulbs here.

Do you have tips or advice for people dealing with glitchy tech?  Share your wisdom in comments.

Apple upgrades Health app; the internet hilariously poops on apps you can’t delete

Apple announced it was making some upgrades to its Health App at today’s Cupertinofest 7.9.3.

That got me thinking (and asking on Twitter), “great, but does anyone use the Health app anyway?” In my early experience with it it didn’t sync with much, didn’t track much and seemed generally useless.

Twitter agreed with me, and my thread evolved into a hilarious game of one-upsmanship where Tweeps showed off where they hide the apps Apple considers so important they’re un-deleteable. Some of those folders have nice, innocuous, but nonetheless true names.  Others are much more clever. And nearly all of them show how users really feel about Health app.. and some others.

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Apple “Extras”.. that’s nice…

 

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“Never use” is also rather kind.

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Mel calls a spade a spade (bottom right).

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This dog is NOT an Apple fan.

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Cute, and accurate. (Thanks Colin!)

 

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Last word goes to this guy!

Gadgets get better looking! The rise of ‘Smart Jewelry’

tech talk december 3This time on CTV’s Tech Talk we focused on a new trend that’s seeing gadgets get  better looking, after many years of being functional, but in some cases kinda ugly.

Tory Burch for Fitbit

IMG_7876I’ve long been a big fan of Fitbit’s Flex fitness tracker. (Read why here) My biggest knock on it has been that it’s not a pretty accessory when it’s worn at work or for a night out. Fitbit’s heard my prayers, partnering with US Designer tory Burch for a line of beautiful jewelry-type cases for the Flex; a series of bracelets, and a neat pendant too. You’ll need the Flex tracker first (sold separately), but now you’ve got a gorgeous option, aside from the ugly and obvious plastic wristbands that the Flex comes with.

Bellabeat Leaf Fitness Tracker

IMG_7784The Bellabeat Leaf is a sleep, stress, movement and health monitor that looks nothing like typical fitness bands. It’s a beautiful metal and wood pendant that is very versatile. It can be worn on a chain around the neck, clipped to a leather buckle bracelet, or clipped on to any piece of clothing. it comes in a few different colour combinations too.

This neat little gadget tracks your movements like many fitness monitors, but it will also track your menstrual cycle.

Moto360 Smart Watch

IMG_8507We’ve all heard about smart watches, and Motorola’s entry to the market is just as stylish and smart as the others. With a round face and interchangeable virtual watch faces, you can totally customize this watch to your mood, outfit, or overall style.

The watch will deliver alerts directly to your wrist; everything from the basic texts, calls and emails, but also alerts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram plus WordPress and even the Ring Video Doorbell! While it has some limitations whenused with Apple smart devices, it still works pretty good, and looks great.

Netatmo June UV Sensing Bracelet

netatmo-june-1-537x402June by netatmo is a small light-sensor made beautiful. It measures ambient light and alerts you when you’ve had too much sun. JUNE’s UVA and UVB sensors measure your sun exposure while the App computes the data and gives you the UV index in real time. While it should keep you from getting a sunburn, it can also protect you from the aging properties of the suns rays by alerting you when you’ve been in the sun too long. This delicate little sensor is sparkly and looks like a pretty gemstone. Attached to a nice leather bracelet, it’s a chic way to be sun savvy.

Fossil Q Smart Watches and Fitness Bands

fossil q watch

Speaking of sexy watches, Fossil has come out with a new line of really, really beautiful watches that will also give you smart alerts. I tested the Fossil Q Grant, a lovely watch with Roman numerals that gives you a subtle buzz when something on your phone needs attention.

dreamerYou’ll get filtered notifications from favorite contacts and the Q line also allows you to track everything from steps to calories. Fossil Q Grant is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems.

I also showed the Fossil Q Dreamer, a fitness tracker that looks like chic jewelry, rather than a bulky or plastic fitness band. This charming and sparly little bangle also tracks daily steps and calories, as well as providing basic vibrating alerts for messages.

Looking for more chic wearables? Click to read my Top 5 Wearables List!

I also showed the brand new Glow Headphones. These have garnered a lot of attention since I first  showed them off on my Twitter and YouTube Channel.

They’re quite the eye-catching earphones! Read the full review of them here.

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