T3 Micro Twirl 360 smart curling iron review

I love testing out beauty gadgets, so when I heard about T3’s new curling iron which it says will create, “flawless curls, powered by science” I was more than a little interested.
The T3 Micro Twirl 360 is a 1.25″ barrel ceramic curling iron. While it looks like most standard curling irons, its lovely white sheathing makes it look ultra modern. But behind the nice styling is some serious technology, because this curling iron can curl your hair virtually by itself, because it has a built in gyroscope that whirls the curls for you. Continue reading “T3 Micro Twirl 360 smart curling iron review”

Samsung Gear S3 smart watch review

samsung gear s3 smart watch how toWhen it comes to true smartwatches, there’s not a whole lot of choice; there’s Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear line, plus a small group of others. Yes, you can find watches that dabble in certain smart functions, but for the whole package of functionality, your choices are limited. Continue reading “Samsung Gear S3 smart watch review”

How to save Google maps directions for offline use & travel

Google-Maps 2 how to use offline no wifiGoogle Maps can get you out of a jam if you’re lost or trying to find a place, but it doesn’t help you if you’re travelling out of country and trying to a avoid roaming charges from your cellular provider. The fix is to save Google Maps directions offline so you can access the info without using data. Here’s how to do it. (Hint: do this before you go offline)

How to save Google Maps directions offline

For Apple Users:

1    On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app.
2    Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
3    Search for a place, like Palm Springs, Madrid, you get the idea.
4    At the bottom of the page, tap the name or address of the place (in the white bar). If you search for a “place” like a restaurant, tap More.
5    Select Download.

maps download google maps offline use how to

How to store maps with no data – Use offline areas

You can save maps or areas for use later.  This is called “Offline Areas”.
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would. If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions instead.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations

It’s worth noting you can get driving directions offline, but not transit, bicycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.

For Android users:

Download an area to use offline
Note: You can store your offline areas on your device or an SD card. If you change the way you store your offline areas, you’ll have to download your offline areas again.

  1.   On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
  2.  Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
  3.  Search for a place, like San Francisco.
  4.  At the bottom, tap the name or address of the place. If you search for a place like a restaurant, tap More .
  5.  Select Download .

How to store offline areas to an SD card
By default, offline areas are downloaded on your phone or tablet’s internal storage, but you can download them on an SD card if you prefer.

(If your device is on Android 6.0 or higher, you can only save an offline area to an SD card that’s configured for portable storage.)

  1.   On your phone or tablet, insert an SD card.
  2.  Open the Google Maps app .
  3.  In the top left, tap the Menu Offline areas.
  4. In the top right, tap Settings.
  5. Under “Storage preferences,” tap Device  SD card.

Android: Use offline areas
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations
If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions.
Notes:
•    You can get driving directions offline, but not transit, cycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.
•    To save cell data and battery life, use “Wi-Fi only” mode. In this mode, when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, Google Maps will only use data from the offline areas that you’ve downloaded. Before you use this mode, make sure you download offline areas. To turn on this mode, open the Google Maps app Menu Settings next to “Wi-Fi only,” turn the switch on.

Save money on roaming fees, save data usage and keep connected while travelling. Do you have map, gadget, or travel tips to share? Post them in comments below.

 

Google Wi-Fi now in Canada – My review

google wifiOne of the biggest complaints about making our homes smarter is Wi-Fi. After all, if you’re streaming TV, running lights, connected appliances, tablets, smartphones, computers and a host of other accessories, your Wi-Fi is bound to get bogged down. Not to mention getting decent coverage across the whole house can be a challenge. Making Wi-Fi better has often involved getting a new router, buying signal boosters, or chasing a signal by moving around the house. Now a new technology called mesh Wi-Fi has come onto the market to help improve speed and coverage. The new Google Wi-Fi, launching today in Canada, utilizes mesh Wi-Fi to improve your coverage at home.

Google Wi-Fi launches today in Canada, but I got my hands on an advance test kit for a review.

What is Google WiFi?

google wifi router single router problem
A single router or modem-router unit is a problem

Google Wi-Fi is a ‘mesh’ Wi-Fi system. It connects to your home’s modem or modem-router unit (also called a ‘gateway’) and spreads your Wi-Fi signal across the home (or business). Mesh Wi-Fi creates multiple connection points so you don’t get dead spots.

Google writes, “a mesh network is a group of routers that communicate wirelessly to each other to create a single Wi-Fi network that provides a blanket of connectivity. This allows you to have multiple sources of powerful Wi-Fi throughout your home, instead of just a single router.”

How does Google Wi-Fi work?

google wifi blanket mesh
How mesh Wi-Fi works.

Google Wi-Fi is not just a signal booster; it’s a whole new Wi-Fi system that takes the signal from your home’s modem, and spreads it all over the house. It creates multiple connection points in the house so under-serviced areas like the basement, top floor or distant rooms can get as strong a Wi-Fi signal as you can being near the router/modem.

Google Wi-Fi plugs directly into your modem. (The modem is of course the device that brings the internet signal into the home; it’s often hard-wired in to a cable in the wall.)

Google Wifi plugs into modem
Google Wi-Fi connects to your modem (gateway)

Usually your modem is connected to a router, and the router is what allows your internet to become wireless. The trouble with a single router is that it can only cover so much and extend so far; traditionally user complaints have been that some rooms are dead zones, or that top floors and basements can’t get a strong enough signal.

Google Wi-Fi addresses that by creating a series of connection points all over the house, wherever you need them. You can have as many Google Wi-Fi points in the home as you need (up to 32 Google tells me!) and adding Google Wi-Fi eliminates the need for a router.

“The system is flexible and scalable, so if you have a larger home, connect as many points as needed to get better Wi-Fi in every room (a 3-pack covers up to 4,500 sq. ft), says Google on its website, “Wifi points connect wirelessly, so you don’t need to run Ethernet cables throughout your house.”

So what does it do?

Since Wi-Fi is broadcast from each Google Wi-Fi point (and not just that lonely router in the basement laundry room), and each point connects seamlessly to each other, Google Wifi provides more coverage over a wider space.

What do you need to use Google Wi-Fi?

For starters, you’ll need internet service from a provider. (For many of us, you’ll get your modem that will bring internet into the home from the outside, and your bill is paid to companies like Rogers, Shaw, Bell or Telus.) Google says its Wi-Fi is compatible with all service providers and virtually all modems. You’ll also need a smartphone, or tablet (Android or iOS) and the free Google Wi-Fi app.

Setting up Google Wi-Fi

google wifi kit canadaI was not looking forward to setting up the Wi-Fi. My experience getting things like routers set up in the past has been that it’s tedious, difficult, and often requires tech support.

I opened the box and right away marvelled at the small card with set up instructions; just plug one of the Wi-Fi points into your modem with the ethernet cable, then download the Google Wi-Fi app.

The app will ask you to identify which of the pods is tethered to the modem. (There are numbers on the back of each of the pods and that’s how you will identify them.) Once you tell it which one is plugged in you’ll scan a QR code on the back of the device (Google says this is for security and encryption to make sure the devices are yours and with you).

The next step is to name your network and assign it a password. To keep everything straight, give it a new name and password. There’s also a school of thought that says you should name the network the same as you previous network and give it the same password so that you can fool your smart home devices, for example, into not knowing you’ve switched networks on them. In theory this would save you from having to charge all those smart devices to a new network (which in some cases means resetting them and starting from scratch.) Does this work? I’ve only had the system a few days, so I’m not sure yet.  I’ll try it and update this blog shortly — if you’re dying to know, post a comment here or message me on Twitter @ErinLYYC.

google wifi appOk, back to set up… after connecting the first Wi-Fi point or pod, you will then connect the other two Wi-Fi pods using the same process: identify them by their number on the back then name them according to where you’ll be placing them.

After that, launch the app and do a connection test. While you’re at it you can check things like the speed and test how fast the connection to your phone, tablet or computer is.

It’s easy… so easy

I can’t say enough how simple this set-up process was. The app made it absolutely foolproof, and the whole set-up went smoothly with absolutely no snags.  I test a lot of gadgets and seamless easy set-up is one of the features I give high marks to. In this case, I have no doubt even a child could get this hooked up in minutes. There’s no IP addresses to worry about, no calls to the internet service provider and no confusing instructions. I had the whole network up and running in under 10 minutes; it took longer to go up and down stairs and plug them in than it did to set up.

How fast is Google Wi-Fi?

google wifi speedI tested our home’s Wi-Fi with the existing dual band modem-router unit. On the 2.4 ghz band we were getting 27 mbps. On the 5g network we get 60 mbps. After we installed the Google Wi-Fi units, the speed went up to 68 mbps overall. That’s fast enough to stream data-heavy 4K video without buffering.

Where to place your Google Wi-Fi pods

Only you will know where best to place your pods. They should probably go to high traffic areas where people are often using their devices, or to known dead spots in the home. If you live in a multi story house and have typically have trouble getting a signal on a floor far from the router, that’s a good place to start. Similarly if you have a room that has notoriously poor coverage, place one of the pods there. While the starter kit I received came with three Google Wi-Fi pods you can add as many as you like, up to a total of 32.

What can Google Wi-Fi do for me?

Smooth connectivity, at all times, no matter where you are
Google Wi-Fi has something built in called Network Assist. This invisible genius is always working to put your device on the closest Wi-Fi point and fastest connection, so you can move around at will and not drop the signal.

The assistant also is constantly working in the background to keep you on the least connected channel.  What does that mean? Wi-Fi travels in our neighbourhoods on shared channels, which can get crowded (for proof, just open your phone or device’s Wi-Fi settings and look at all your neighbours’ networks that are out there).  All those networks are sharing ‘channels’ or bands. Network Assist works to ensure your  Wi-Fi points are using the clearest channels to connect to one another, and to your devices. Whether you’re using the 2.4GHz band or the 5 GHz, Google Wifi automatically connects your device to the band that will be fastest based on your location.

Priority Device
The Priority Device setting allows you to prioritize Wi-Fi traffic to a specific phone, tablet, computer or device. This works great in a house with several family members where everyone is often online at once. By prioritizing mom or dad’s phone or laptop, the kids can keep using the Wi-Fi, but the majority of data will go to the person that really needs it. That way everyone’s devices aren’t slowing down or stalling.google wifi schedule kids stop internet turn off bedtime

Family Wi-Fi – schedule pauses for dinner, homework, sleep
Family Wi-Fi setting allows administrators of the account, most likely parents, to control exactly who gets Wi-Fi time and when. Using this setting, you can schedule pauses in Internet use during homework time, dinner hours, or at bedtime. There’s no fighting over devices, or negotiating “just 10 more minutes”. You schedule the Wi-Fi to shut down, and it shuts down.

This setting also allows you to select specific devices and alter the times of use for those devices; your younger child’s tablet can shut down at seven, while the older children can keep on surfing until nine.

All of the settings and features are very easily controlled and adjusted in the Google Wi-Fi app.

Multiple account managers
Another cool feature of Google Wi-Fi is the ability to have multiple managers of your network. While the original account needs to be set up by one person with a Gmail account, it’s easy to add another person as an administrator simply by typing their Gmail address into the app.

Out of home connection
You can access your Wi-Fi settings, make changes, and otherwise adjust configurations even if you are not inside the home. The Google Wi-Fi app works no matter where you are.As you’re connected to the internet, you can manage things at home, and see who’s online.

Help out without hopping in the car
Having an out of home connection also means that if you’re the one in the family who manages mom and dad’s internet network, granny’s connection, or you’re always on call to help the neighbour or your sister, you can manage and access all your settings and even troubleshoot those networks, all from your phone if you get those folks a Google Wi-Fi kit.

Guest Wi-Figoogle wifi 3 home internet wifi faster
Another way to keep your home secure, is to enable the guest Wi-Fi feature. This allows you to create a separate network for guests, with its own password. This means that when kids have friends come over, or if you’re throwing a party, you can grant people Wi-Fi access without revealing the password to your private home network.

Is Google spying on me? – Security & Privacy

Been much written about Google and how much data the company has on each of us. Not surprisingly it raises the question for many potential customers about whether giving Google full access to your Wi-Fi, not just the Google search site, is opening the door for even more info to end up in the hands of a large corporation.

Google says it’s not getting any additional info from you by running your Wi-Fi.

“The information your Wifi points and the Google Wifi app collect helps us deliver the best Wi-Fi experience possible. Importantly, the Google Wifi app and your Wifi points do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network. However, your Wifi points does collect data such as Wi-Fi channel, signal strength, and device types that are relevant to optimize your Wi-Fi performance.”

Read more on Google’s privacy policy here.

Overall Review – Google Wi-Fi

Overall I had a great experience with Google Wi-Fi. It improved my connection speeds, it was very easy to set up and manage and changing settings or adjusting the network for kids or guests was ultra easy. I’m still working with the kit and still learning more about it. If I find out more facts that should be shared, I’ll update the blog. Please post questions if you have them.

Google Wi-Fi sells for $439 for a 3-pack and additional pods are $179.

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.

Tooth Technology: Philips smart Platinum Connected & sexy DiamondClean

Philips sonicare thumbnailsDental technology is huge these days, believe it or not. For proof, look no further than my mini review series on toothbrush technology. In this post we’re looking at two brushes in the Philips Sonicare line; the Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected and the Sonicare DiamondClean. (Read part one of our series on the Oral B Genius 8000 here.)

What is Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected?

The Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected is a smart toothbrush that connects via Bluetooth with your smartphone to track your brushing patterns, coverage and time spent cleaning your teeth. It works without the app as a simple electric toothbrush and it’s fully rechargeable too.

How to get set up

Setting up the toothbrush is quite simple. You’ll download the app then open it. As soon as you turn on your brush the app will find the toothbrush and connect instantly.

While the handle is not as slick and minimalist as the DiamondClean version (which you’ll read about soon), it’s still nice looking. It has several buttons on the front; a power button, a speed button, and a button that changes the different modes of cleaning.

What’s in the box?

Inside the box you’ll find the brush handle, two different brush heads with travel caps, a charging base, a bracket that fits over the charging base to hold toothbrush heads, and a travel case. Unlike some other models, such as the Sonicare DiamondClean, this case does not double as a charger.

You’ll need to allow 24 hours to fully charge the battery in the handle for the first time, so once you get it unboxed plug it in and leave it alone for a while.

Get brushing coaching
The Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected brush is designed to pair with the app to give you timed and illustrated instructions on your brushing technique and coverage. While you can use it without the app, what’s the point? If you’re spending this kind of money on a fancy brush, you’ll want to commit to using it in its technologically connected mode. If you’re not the kind of person who wants to whip out their phone every time they brush, skip ahead and read about the DiamondClean.

Adjusting different brushing modes
The toothbrush needs to be switched between its available modes while the brush is off. Small lights will illuminate the mode you’ve chosen. There is a Clean mode which is basic toothbrushing, White mode adds additional ‘massage’ and an additional 40 seconds to polish your visible front teeth. There’s also a Deep Clean mode which is said to provide “invigorating deep massage to deliver an exceptional clean”.

A pressure sensor built into the brush will let you know if you’re brushing too hard. It uses both a change in vibration and a slight change in sound to let you know if you’re brushing too hard. This feature can be disabled if you wish, but again, why would you?

App features
philips sonicare app toothbrush smartUsing the app is easy, but there’s not really an realtime feedback to speak of.  While the app will guide you through which areas of your mouth to scrub, it’s not actually tracking you or watching to see what you’re doing (like the Oral B Genius 8000). Here, it’s more like you’re getting coaching, or following along to a workout video; but there’s no one in the room with you to make sure you’re not eating cheetos.

(For a brush that IS watching you, read my review of the Oral B Genius 8000)

Pressure sensing for aggressive brushers
The brush has several smart features such as pressure sensing. If you brush too hard the toothbrush will let you know using a change in vibration and slight change in sound. The app will also display a warning message on screen. I found the brush very touchy when it came to motion and pressure at first, but once I followed the coaching and stopped grinding the brush into my teeth things improved.

Beeping Brush Pacer
The brush pacer setting allows you to turn on an indicator which will emit a small sound during the brushing cycle so that you’ll know when to move on to a different section of your mouth.

The brush pacer requires you to divide your mouth into six sections; three on top and three on the bottom. You’ll hear a beep after you’ve spent enough time on each section.

To turn this feature on or off, leave your brush in the charging base then press and hold the mode button until you hear one beep to indicate the brush pacer has been deactivated, or two to indicate it is ready to go.

Easy start for beginners
Brushing with a much stronger electronic toothbrush can be a little difficult for some to handle, there is the easy start feature. Easy start gently increases the power over the first 14 brushings to help you get used to using the toothbrush. You turn this feature on or off by putting the handle in the charger, one beep indicates it is deactivated.

Replacing the brush headsphilips sonicare app toothbrush smart platinum diamond
Philips recommends you replace the brush heads every three months. The app can be set to tell you when it’s time to do that, and you’ll earn points when you check in the brush’s status.

It’s worth pointing out the cost. Two replacement brush heads sell for about $35-$40 Canadian. That is of course in addition to what you might have paid for the brush handle itself.

Overall review – Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected

The brush was was to set up and looks sleek and modern.  It’s easy to operate on its own and in connected mode.

I feel like it would be easy to cheat with this brush; after all, it’s really just using the app as a guide or a coach, and there’s no accountability for cheating (but as my second grade teacher used to tell us we’d only be cheating ourselves here, right??), however the brush will track the length of your sessions and frequency.

The Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected costs $189 CAD. Get more info on it here.

Philips Sonicare DiamondClean electric toothbrush

philips sonicare app toothbrush smart platinum diamondThe Philips Sonicare DiamondClean is a gorgeous electric/rechargeable toothbrush, but unlike its Platinum cousin, it’s not smart and won’t connect to the app. It does have a timer function built in that will buzz you when it’s time to move from quadrant to quadrant of your mouth to ensure an even clean. It’s also got high tech induction charging.

The first thing I noticed is how appealing the overall package is. The brush actually won numerous product design awards back in 2012, so Philips has stuck with the sleek and modern design ever since.

The included travel case looks really cool and modern. The silver canvas casing hides a lime green interior which cradles the smooth white brush handle inside. The whole thing looks sleek and elegant.philips sonicare app toothbrush smart platinum diamond

The kit also comes with an induction charging glass. It’s a drinking glass that also doubles as a charger for the brush when you set it inside the cup. I couldn’t wait to try this out as this was blowing my mind. I’ve seen induction chargers before, but they’re usually ugly, plastic, and functional. This charger looked neat and pretty.

The charging stand has two pieces. There’s a sleek and shiny metal base which houses the actual charging unit, and then the glass that accompanies it. The glass sits on top of the base for stability and security plus power, and is removable for use as a drinking glass or rinsing cup when you’re not using it for power. You can of course keep the glass separate or not use it at all, as the diamond kit also contains a clear plastic stand for the toothbrush that will replace the glass on the charging base (see photo above).

The brush comes with that silver canvas travel case I mentioned and it also works as a charger plus it holds two brushes.

Overall review –  Philips Sonicare DiamondClean

This brush is really pretty, but if you’re looking for smarts, it’s not for you.  The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean, as I’ve taken to calling it, is designed primarily as a better looking, less utilitarian electric toothbrush.  When paired with its sleek recharging case it’s a great options for travelers too, since you can actually use the case as a power bank if you’re so inclined. This brush is perfect, however, for the person who doesn’t want to fuss with using their phone each time they brush their teeth, but still wants some level of smart functionality.

The Sonicare DiamondClean comes in black or white and will set you back about $199-229 CAD.

philips sonicare app toothbrush smart platinum diamond

Tooth technology: Oral B Genius 8000 connected toothbrush review

oral b genius 8000 review erinI research a lot of technology trends.  One thing that’s been popping up again and again is the technology of teeth.  Specifically toothbrush technology.  In fact, high-tech toothbrushes are so common and advanced now, I’ve got a blog and YouTube series in the works about all the options. It kicks off today with the Oral B Genus 8000 smart toothbrush. You can also read about two brushes in the Philips series, the Platinum and the Diamond here.

The Genius is a rechargeable electric toothbrush that uses vibration and an oscillating head to deep-clean your teeth. It also pairs with an app so that you can track and record your toothbrushing habits in real time and get feedback on how you’re doing.

Oral B Genius 8000 – What’s in the box

oral b genius 8000 whats in boxI was sent a sample brush to try out and review over several weeks.  As I unboxed the Oral B 8000, I saw there are a heck of a lot of pieces in the box.

There’s a travel kit, and an at home charging station. Plus storage cases for the brushes. It may seem a bit overwhelming at first but once it makes sense you realize you’re getting a lot for your money.

The kit also comes with a special bracket to hold your cell phone to a mirror right in front of the area where you brush. More about why you need that later…

The toothbrush has a waterproof handle and is designed to get wet so there should be no safety concerns. It’s charged by placing it on a small base. The charging level is indicated on the handle display, and a full charge takes about 12 hours and should give you 12 days of regular brushing (which Oral-B says is about twice a day for two minutes).

Getting Oral B Genius 8000 set uporal b genius 8000 app whats in box

Getting the brush set up and connecting it to your smart phone is easy enough. You download the Oral-B app and it guides you through the entire set up and pairing process. I was connected in no time with just a few clicks.

Using your toothbrush with an app

It’s a bit weird to adapt to using your smartphone while you brush, but to get the most from this brush, you’ll need to connect the Oral B app.  With it you get a timer function and a mapping function.

Timer function
Using the timer function the brush and app will tell you if you’re brushing long enough.  While you’re using it, local weather, news stories, and photos of the day will come up on your cell phone screen to entertain you while you brush.When you’re done your dentist recommended two minute brushing time, the timer will signal you with a long stuttering sound and a flashing ring of light. If you have the professional timer set up, you’ll get a short stuttering sound and flashing of the smart ring light at 30 second intervals to tell you to move to the next quadrant of your mouth.

I also have to say I find it a struggle to brush for the required two minutes. Obviously I’ve been brushing my teeth for years for far less time than I should be, because when I make it the full allotted time, it feels like I’be been scrubbing my teeth forever!

oral b genius 8000 app whats in boxPosition Detection Function
Using the position detection feature is very eye-opening. You think you’re getting all the areas of your mouth but the app proves that you’re not, and then shows you where you need to focus more or less time.

To use it you need to mount your smartphone to the mirror in front of your brushing area, then position your face in a small circle so the app can ‘see’ your mouth and monitor your position. The app will then show you a graph that measures how well you’re brushing each quadrant of your mouth.

Gameifying your brushing experience
The Oral B Genius is gameified; which should be fun for some folks. Once you’re finished doing the position detection technique, you’ll get a score. The app will encourage you to beat your score again next time. gameifying ordinary experiences is a neat and smart way to get you to think more about them and make them more purposeful.

Travelling with Genius 8000

The included travel case will charge both your toothbrush and your smart phone if you need it. Rather surprisingly, to give the case a full charge can take up to 12 hours, so make sure you get it juiced up well in advance.

The inside lid of the travel case has a built in smartphone holder which allows you to prop up your phone so the app can still see you brush.

Using the Oral B Genius 8000

Pressure control ring
One feature I found particularly helpful is the pressure control light up Ring. The light around the top of the toothbrush will turn red if you start brushing too hard. If you’re also using the app at the same time, it will also give you an on-screen message telling you the same. As someone Who consistently brushes too hard, I found this very helpful.

That light up ring also has several other features. When it’s white, the default color, it just tells you that it’s working and act as a visual timer. You can also choose your individual colour for the slight inside the app. A blue light indicates the brush is in Bluetooth pairing mode.

Vibration
The Oral B Genius 8000 uses strong vibrations and an oscillating brush head to clean your teeth. As Oral B explains is, “this highly advanced brush features a dentist-inspired round head that surrounds and cups each tooth with dynamic oscillating, rotating and pulsating movements to remove up to 100% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush.”

Overall review – Can Oral B Genius 8000 deliver?

oral b genius 8000 app whats in boxAt first I found the brush very … aggressive.  The vibrations are quite strong. I also started out with the small round brush head, the CrossAction, which was significantly smaller than I’ve used before. between the new head, the vibrations, the size of the handle and adapting to using the app, I wasn’t sure if I liked the brush overall.  But after a few days I adapted, and started to notice me teeth actually felt… cleaner.  You know how when it’s almost time to visit the dentist, your teeth start to feel… less clean overall?  I was near that part of the dental cycle, but after two weeks with the brush I felt like I had just been to the dentist. I was impressed.

I didn’t need to recharge the brush during that whole time either, so I ended up putting the charging base away to de-clutter my bathroom. when it does need juice, I’ll just whip it out and leave it to re-charge for a few hours.

After testing, I really liked this brush; I feel like it cleans well, lasts a long time on a charge and will give me a clean even my dentist would approve of.

The brush handle starter kits sell for about $269CAD and replacement brushes are about $36 for a 3-pack, so buying and maintaining use of one of these is not without its costs. is it worth it… I’m going to keep using the brush for longer to see. if you’re curious, hit me up with a comment after a couple months and I’ll let you know.

There’s more info on the brush here.

Check out more in my series on smart dental technology – read about two brushes in the Philips series, the Platinum and the Diamond here.

Henge Gravitas stand for iPad & iPhone – dual purpose docking

henge grvitas dock best apple I love docks for my phone.  They keep the device within easy reach, allow you to see the screen, and get it all charged up at the same time. The worst problem with a docking station is that you need two hands to remove it so you don’t end up dropping something on the floor. Recently I had a chance to test out a brand-new dock that’s a bit different. Henge Docks Gravitas dock is ultra heavy weight for single-hand operation, and it can not only hold and charge my iPhone but my iPad too.

One dock for iPhone and iPad – the Gravitas

The Henge Docks Gravitas is about the size of a fist, and it really packs a punch.  It weighs 2.5 lbs so it’s not going to tip over of slide off anything. That’s because it’s made of a sturdy zinc alloy that’s is 265% denser than aluminum. That allows it to be very small, but hold a lot of weight, and even use it one-handed.I was skeptical that this would work, but after testing I found it’s quite easy to use one-handed, thanks to its solid weighty base.

The sleek brushed metal finish also makes it chic and minimalist for my home.

henge grvitas dock best appleThe Gravitas dock is built for Apple devices only (sorry Android friends!) and can accommodate a variety of iPhone sizes with a set of included liners.  For me, I loved the fact I could swap my iPhone 6+ and my iPad (both still in their respective cases) in and out of the device without fuss. This dock is super versatile.

 

 

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”

Fugoo Style Bluetooth speaker review: wireless audio never sounded so good

There’s hardly a home or office that doesn’t have at least one wireless Bluetooth speaker these days. (Or is that just me? Do non-tech bloggers have 4 portable wireless speakers?) Portable wireless audio has become the standard for listening to music in the home. There are larger more sophisticated versions like Sonos or Bose, but there are also many choices when it comes to smaller more portable speakers. Fugoo Style is one of those speakers. But how well does it perform and is it worth the price?

Features of Fugoo Style wireless speaker

Fugoo makes a variety of Bluetooth speakers in varying sizes, different levels of portability and several styles. The Style speaker is one of the chicest, but its good looks conceal a tough and durable interior. Fugoo says the speaker has a “fiber-reinforced resin shell and waterproof cloth covering that gives this speaker the protection it needs to last long past cocktail hour.”

The speaker is about the size of a small clutch purse or a portable coffee mug, and though it’s lightweight, it doesn’t feel cheap; it feels like it has some durability and heft behind it. it has a built in speakerphone and connects with Siri or Google Now.

It also has a changeable jacket, which is removed by pushing a release tab on the base. Without its skin, it looks very industrial, and still cool. Keeping the jacket on provides some measure of water or spill protection, so it’s probably best kept on.

Setting up Fugoo Style is easy

Setting up the Fugoo speaker couldn’t have been simpler; the first time you’ll turn it on, head to your device’s Bluetooth menu, and click on the speaker, which should have appeared in the Bluetooth devices list.  If not, you can touch the Bluetooth button next to the speaker’s power button and it should pop right up accompanied by a helpful and suave sounding male digital assistant’s voice.  I was connected and playing music in about 10 seconds. I love devices where set up is simple and flawless, so Fugoo gets high marks for this.

Fugoo Style Sound quality & volumeFugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

It can be hard to find good quality sound in a small Bluetooth speaker.  Fortunately the Fugoo Style sounded great from the get-go. The device, thought it looks like a single speaker, actually hides 4 speakers inside its housing; two in each face and two others in the ends.

Fugoo says, “the FUGOO Portable Bluetooth Speaker has six symmetrically-placed drivers. The two tweeters deliver clean highs, two mid/sub drivers give midrange punch, and two passive radiators help bring out a full, deep bass. Together, these six drivers deliver a clean sound pressure level, filling large rooms and outdoor areas with rich, immersive sound.”

I definitely found the speaker powerful and room filling, and I tested it with several styles and genres of music.

My test Playlist with the Fugoo Style

► The Roots (Don’t Say Nuthin’)
► Pharell (Beautiful)
► Dave Matthews Band (American Baby)
► City and Colour (Comin’ Home)
► Robbie Williams (I will talk and Hollywood will listen)
► Tragically Hip (Poets)
► Kiev (Be Gone Dull Cage)

The bass was solid, and the high end didn’t sound tinny or buzzy. I was able to crank it to 2/3 volume without any noticeable distortion. At about 3/4 volume I did notice a raspiness creeping in to the vocals, but overall the sound was pretty good. The sound quality overall has quite a bit of depth and the music sounded true.Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

The bass on Don’t say Nuthin and Poets was true and thumping, the vocals on Beautiful and Be Gone Dull Cage sounded soft and smooth, while the picking and the snare on American Baby were resonant and real. The acoustic guitar on Comin’ Home was hauntingly real. Subtle flute and clarinet, and the big symphonic drums on my Robbie Williams selection was delicately replicated, while Robbie’s voice cut through with vibrancy. I was quite impressed with the amazing sound quality I got out of this little speaker.

Fugoo adds, “the upward tilt of the speakers puts everyone in the sweet spot. So simply place your speaker in the center of a room and fill any space with sharp highs, bassy lows, and all-around premium audio.” I can’t disagree.

Does Fugoo Style have good battery life?

Many portable wireless Bluetooth speakers have a battery life in the 10-20 hour range. Fugoo Style boasts an astounding 40 hours of battery life. That’s well above many other similar speakers, so this gadget is a great choice if you’re heading to a campground or on a road trip for a weekend. I tested the speaker for about two weeks and never charged it once.

Bluetooth connectivity is outstanding on Fugoo Style

Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speakerThe speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity which Fugoo says will give you solid connectivity up to 33 feet. In my tests I carried my iPhone 6 Plus all over the 1000 square foot main floor and didn’t experience any breakup of the Bluetooth signal. Heading downstairs (where I have seen digital signal breakup on other speakers) the Fugoo Style didn’t miss a beat. Again, I was impressed.

Overall review of Fugoo Style portable wi-fi speaker

This is an absolutely fantastic Bluetooth speaker. I have to say I wasn’t expecting very much from something this small and with such an eye to style, so I was happily blown away by the outstanding audio quality and durability. The dead-easy set up also gets top marks from me.

The 40 hour battery life is also a huge plus for me. I’ve been using it in my bathroom when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I used to just use the small crappy speaker on my iPhone, but the easy connectivity, great sound, and compact size means it can sit in the bathroom for weeks on end and provide me with high-quality audio before it ever needs to be recharged.

I think the waterproof cover is also a great thing to have since you just never know what can happen at a party or gathering; a little insurance is nice.

In short, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this speaker to anyone who’s looking for a portable Bluetooth audio solution.

 The Fugoo Style costs $139USD or about $185CAD. Get more info here.