Why I Will Forever Continue to Buy Unlocked Phones

I love unlocked phones. I really can’t see myself sticking with a carrier-branded or locked phone at any time in the near future. In fact, if I have it my way, I’ll never buy another for personal use. Unlocked phones are the phones I regular choose as my day-to-day devices because they not only offer incredible value, but they are filled with added bonuses you may not realize unless someone points them out to you. They are the phones for tinkerers, for tech nerds, for early adopters, and also for those looking for the best bang for their buck.

This is why.  (more…)

Smartwatches Aren’t Smart Enough

Smartwatches are back in the news again thanks to Apple’s latest event, and it has me thinking about a topic that I am tired of thinking about. It’s not necessarily that I don’t want a smartwatch or that I can’t see their prospective usefulness, but rather, much of the press seems to be going through the motions of gazing out at the distant future and hoping it appears on the latest wearable.

Almost everyone seems to agree that Apple failed to provide a story for the product, or the ideal reason why we should want an Apple Watch, which has led to some people remaining skeptical until they try it and others waxing on about how it, unlike Android Wear, is going to change everything. It’s that second group that I’m growing weary of. I keep hearing stories about how the Apple Watch is going to save so much time, and how it will enable us to be more personable since we won’t be looking at our phones anymore, and how it will remove friction from our lives when we use our watch for everything.

Are smartwatches really the thing that will make us better conversationalists, use our phone less, and get more work done? Let’s take a look at some of the promises we have been hearing about smartwatches and examine just how viable they are. (more…)

Choosing the Best Smartphone Camera [Opinion]

Megapixels. Sensors. Aperture. White balance. Shutter Speed. Optical Image Stabilization. Ultrapixels. ISO. Bokeh. Exposure.

Every year we see new flagship phones released, followed by more buzz words explaining why each OEM has the best camera on their smartphone. If you are not a camera aficionado, seeing these kinds of words probably raises more questions than it does answers. Do I actually need optical image stabilization in my smartphone? This phone has a 20 megapixel camera compared to this one’s 8 megapixel camera, so the 20 megapixel camera is better, right? How do I cure the f-stop blues?

Here’s the truth: in the best lighting conditions, any modern smartphone can take decent pictures, but it does take some education to know which smartphone has the best camera in the most situations. My goal is not to give you a Photography 101 lecture, but rather, to give you some basic pointers so you can better understand what different manufacturer’s cameras are offering. Read on to find out a little bit about how cameras work, what marketing information actually matters, and what this all means when you are comparing smartphone cameras. (more…)

Do You Give a Sh*t About VR?

I don’t. But who am I? Every tech company on Earth thinks that you and I should care about VR. It’s the next tablet frontier, and you know, that went so well for Android OEMs.

VR is everywhere. Samsung is in on it – they have two Gear VR headsets now, each of which only works with a single phone. HTC partnered with Valve on one. Occulus is still doing its thing, we think. Sony is too. Don’t be surprised if LG takes a whack at it. Google is ready to bring Android to VR, reportedly. Companies are putting together “mind blowing” demos of it to sell the press on. Somehow, it’s working in that sense. Regular tech press (the smartphone-reviewing kind, not those at actual gaming conferences), who know so much about gaming and VR (that would be sarcasm), love VR. They all take front-facing selfies of VR headsets on their heads to be like, “I am VR. Blown mind is me. Great demo, guys!”  (more…)

5 Things Android Enthusiasts Care About Today

Last week I had the chance to hang out with Kellen and Tim while I was visiting family in Portland. One of the things that we talked about was what it was like to be an Android enthusiast back in 2009 and on. Back then, Android was about rooting, installing custom ROMs and kernels, customizing your device, and pushing the limits of the hardware.

It was also about not using an iPhone; at the time the iPhone was considered the state of the art device, and it would arguably continue to be a superior overall package for several years. While the iPhone had more apps and a more established ecosystem, the Motorola Droid boasted both a physical and software keyboard, real multitasking (it’s hard to remember now, but the iPhone didn’t get real multitasking until iOS 4), a higher resolution camera with a flash, customizable home screens with widgets, expandable storage, and a user-replaceable battery. It was the antithesis of the iPhone in so many ways, and those of us that used it were proud to say we didn’t use iPhones.

As I was reflecting on this, I began to wonder what it means to be an Android enthusiast today. How much has changed and how much has stayed the same? Read on for my top five things Android enthusiasts care about in 2015. (more…)

I Didn’t Buy a Nexus to Flash All the Things

If you were to ask me why I buy Nexus phones and tablets (outside of the fact that it is my job to own them), I would answer with the following in no particular order. I like stock Android better than manufacturer skins. I like swift updates to the newest versions of Android. I typically like the designs used in Nexus devices. I like to see what new technologies that Google has incorporated in the latest Nexus devices and Android platform, since Nexus devices almost always try to highlight something new in mobile. Before the Nexus 6, I was also a big fan of the low price tags that accompanied Nexus devices. And, well, that’s it. Those are the reasons.

You will notice I didn’t mention the words flash, ROM, root, recovery, bootloader, adb, SDK, boot.img, kernel, or forum. I didn’t mention those, because I buy Nexus devices for reasons that don’t involve tinkering, hacking, flashing, unlocking, and tweaking. I buy Nexus devices because I want to use them like someone would use a Galaxy S5 or Moto X or G3. I like the untouched, out of box experience.  (more…)

Are Carriers Really Branding the Nexus 6? What About SIM Locking?

Over the weekend, the crew in the Nexus 6 subreddit noticed that AT&T’s official images of the Nexus 6 included AT&T’s globe logo on the back of the device, just below the “Nexus” logo. As you can imagine, kind words were not shared, especially with AT&T’s branding leading almost everyone in the building to immediately joke that Verizon would probably place at least two of their own on the device, just to one-up their competitor. Actually, Verizon probably does it just annoy the hell out of us, but either way, those who pre-ordered the AT&T version were not exactly excited about this news.

But wait, we all thought that Google created just one SKU and model for the US, so is AT&T really placing a logo on the Nexus 6 devices sold directly from them? Well, we don’t actually know because no one has seen the device in the wild yet. There are some things to consider here.  (more…)