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FEATURE REVIEW – Unihertz Jelly Pro

The Jelly Pro takes on the Goliath’s of the Android World with the smallest form factor since 2006 (or so)…

Introduction
I remember back in the day – and I’m really targeting the 2006 – 2009 time frame, just before, and right after the face of the smartphone industry changed with the impact of the release of the original iPhone in 2007, small one-handed devices were all the rage. At this point, the world was used to small, one hand operable candy bar styled phones. Phones just like the Jelly Pro.

I’ve got one for review; and I’ve already done an of this phone and have posted it for everyone to see. I’ve been using it on and off – the intended use of the device – over the past few weeks or so and I think I finally have enough information to pass along to everyone. The Jelly Pro is NOT intended to be used as a daily driver. It’s meant to be a go-to phone when you want or need something small and still want or need to stay connected. Let’s take a look at the device and see if the Jelly Pro is something that might help you.

Design
The Unihertz Jelly Pro is 3.7 inches tall, 1.75 inches wide and 0.6 inches thick. It weighs just 2.1 ounces and is so small, it can fit in the coin pocket of your jeans without any issues, problems or forcing. It slides right in. The device is so small that it really reminds me of the Zoolander Phone – The Veer.

Zoolander Phone - The Veer

The Jelly Pro supports full 4G LTE speeds and VoLTE; and should work on just about any GSM network. It also has dual SIM slots, allowing the device to support two phone numbers at the same time. This is totally amazing in a device that’s really this small. However, the device has a bit more going for it than its size. Let’s dig in…

Display
When you’ve got a device this small, there has to be a few draw backs. If there’s one spot that’s going to suffer the most, it’s the display. The Unihertz Jelly Pro’s display is 2.45 inches in size and has a resolution of 240×432 pixels. This is NOT a display that you’re going to want to watch any kind of video on, though the device is clearly capable of playing and streaming video, the screen is so small, it’s not something you’d want to use to watch video on unless it was all that you had.

In fact, if you’re a bit older, or have poor or aging eyesight, this display is going to be a challenge. Its small. It’s very small… Especially by today’s standards where displays for phones like the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus are 4.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively. The Jelly Pro’s display is approximately 1/2 of the size of the smaller, iPhone 8. It has 201 PPI (pixels per inch) and supports 16M colors. It’s also covered with scratch resistant glass, though I can’t find any information on whether its Gorilla Glass or something else. (So, assume something else, at this point, as Gorilla Glass would be a huge marketing point for a device of this size.)

The interesting thing here is that the phone’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness – The phone’s size. It’s too small to do anything except make calls. Trust me, I’ve really tried…

The on screen keyboard is so small, it’s amazing that you can type any words… in English (or your language of choice). You’re going to rely on autocorrect a lot on this device. You’re also going to use speech to text a lot with this device, too. It’s going to be very difficult to use, especially if you’ve got big hands. I have had a lot of trouble with the on screen keyboard, even with my slender fingers.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jelly Pro has a decent screen. It’s just too small to do any texting with. It’s also too small to reply to any email with or to do any real typing with. If you’re a heavy texter, even if this is just an occasional device, it’s not going to be one that you’re going to want to send any messages with.

Hardware
The rest of the device actually has some decent specs… with one small exception – the battery. The device has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. As long as you have a decent data plan, this device should be able to handle audio (and honestly, video) streaming without an issue. It should also be able to handle local storage of some media and entertainment content as well. At 1.1GHz, the processor should be able to handle streaming audio without any concerns with lag or other processing issues.

As I mentioned earlier, the only other issue that the device has is the battery. Its only 950mAh. This means that you’re going to be charging the device at least twice during the day, especially if you try use the device all day.

The device will NOT last a whole day on a single charge. It simply won’t. The battery is just too small. You’re also going to want to make certain you have a microUSB cable handy. The device charges via microUSB, and since the battery is so small, being without one, especially if this is the only device you carry when you’re using it, is going to be a huge mistake. Charge as often as you can with this one…

The Full 360

The front of the Jelly Pro and the HTC One.  Boy this thing is small!
02 Jelly Bottom Edge
The bottom edge of both devices
03 Jelly Right Edge
The right edge of both devices. You can see the Jelly Pro’s microUSB port and power button here.
04 Jelly Top Edge
The top edge of both devices. The Jelly Pro’s 3.5mm headphone jack is located here.
Jelly Left Edge
The left edge of both devices. You can see the volume buttons on the Jelly Pro, here.

Android
The device comes with Android 7 Nougat. I haven’t heard any news related to the Jelly Pro running Android 8 Oreo. The one good thing that is going on, however, is that Unihertz is actively updating the device. When I turned the device on last month, I immediately got an update. I got another one recently as well. This kind of active support by the OEM really makes a huge difference. I’m very pleased that Unihertz is providing this much support on this device. It means a lot when the OEM takes an active role in a device’s life cycle.

Conclusion
The Unihertz Jelly Pro started through a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. The device only retails for $129 USD and is available directly from their their website. For the price, this is a huge deal. The device has enough power to handle most of what you would want to do with a mid to low level device; and does it affordably.

This device is cheap enough, and it’s got decent performance. Unfortunately, the Jelly Pro has got some serious issues with its battery life and the feature that’s supposed to be its biggest draw – its size. The screen is too small to type on. It’s too small to really watch any video content on. The battery is also too small to last you through a day with a single charge, ESPECIALLY if you use it to play any kind of game or watch any video. You’re going to need to charge it at least 2-3 times during the day.

The biggest premise of the phone – its cheap enough to use as a situational phone, is seriously hampered by its size, which is one of its biggest selling points.

Size in a device like this is important. That and price are the reasons why you buy it. However, its display size make it very difficult to use and the size of its battery makes it something that you’re going to have to charge often (at least once every 4-5 hours) under normal use, more frequently if you use it for any kind of streaming content, especially games and video.

While the cost of the phone isn’t all that high, buying something like this to use in place of say, an iPhone 8 or iPhone X or even a Note 8 when you don’t want to take the big device, is high enough that you probably won’t want to lay down an extra $130 bucks when you just spent $1000 or more dollars on the big dog, which is very disappointing…

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Unboxing the Unihertz Jelly Pro

I never thought the Zoolander phone was real… until now.

The Unihertz Jelly Pro is here! Just off of successful campaigns on both Kickstarter,and Indegogo, the Jelly Pro is intended to be a supplemental device and not your daily driver. The device is tiny. It fits in the coin pocket on your jeans. It fits into a small party clutch.

It goes where you do when you can’t take your standard, five plus inch smartphone, yet still provides all the power and functionality of your regular Android phone, without taking up all the space and without the risk of breakage (because you stuck it in a rear pocket or some other place where its likely to get sat on…
Jelly
Full Specs are below.

• 4G/ LTE Smartphone (with support for VoLTE (voice over LTE))
• Quad Core CPU 1.1gHz
• 2GB RAM
• 16GB ROM
• 950mAh Battery – Reported 4-12 hours real use, depending on apps installed
• 2.45 Inch (62.23mm) Display
• 8MP Rear Facing Camera
• 2MP Front Facing Camera
• Android 7.0 Nougat (out of the box)
• Connectivity Support:
o LTE
o WLAN
o Bluetooth
o GPS

Unihertz doesn’t have all of the details I’m looking for in their tech specs, so I’m doing a bit more digging and investigating to see if I can get information on connectivity support and when (read: IF) Unhertz will be updating Jelly Pro to Android 8 Oreo.

The full review is still in the works!

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Jelly – The World’s Smallest 4G/LTE Smartphone

After successful campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Jelly is finally available!
Jelly

Back in the day, small but functional was the thing. One handed operation on any PDA or smartphone was not only important, it was imperative. Back in the early 2000’s, if you couldn’t fully operate your phone with one hand, it wouldn’t make it. I remember reviewing one or two phones who stretched this a bit and didn’t do very well. Back in the day, large screens were a no-no.

Today, the world is all about bigger screens for video purposes. In fact, the larger the screen, the better (without really being a tablet…). However, when you do this, you lose some portability and convenience. Enter Jelly… an Android phone that tries to go a long way to resolve this issue.

 

Unihertz sponsored two crowd funding campaigns – one on Kickstarter, the other on Indegogo. Together, Jelly was able to raise nearly $3M in funding.

Jelly is meant to be an “alternative” to your usual phone that you can use while working out or maybe going out for the night. The device, according to Unihertz isn’t supposed to be your primary phone, despite the fact that its running Android 7, Nougat.

Measuring 92.3 x 43 x 13.3 mm, Jelly sports a 2.45-inch screen with 240 x 432 pixels. Jelly is powered by a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor, with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of ROM or 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB ROM. Both models feature two cameras, dual SIM support, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 950 mAh battery.

According to Unihertz, with only a 950mAh battery, the device won’t last all day long, and you shouldn’t rely on it as your only device. This means that you’re likely going to need to swap your SIM card in and out in order to make this work as intended. From my perspective, 950mAh isn’t ideal, but it isn’t horrible. Back in the day, a battery this small was often encountered and just meant that you will need to charge it periodically, if possible.

However, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I have a Jelly Pro (2GB RAM/16GB ROM (for storage)) coming to me to review. I expect it to be here some time in November 2017. I’ll have additional spec and performance information in the review, and I will also do an unboxing video as well.

Stay tuned!

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FEATURE REVIEW – HTC 10

HTC sent me their new flagship Android smartphone to review, and it’s awesome.

Introduction
I’ve always been a gadget guy. If its electronic and it has buttons of any kind, then I’m usually all over it. Smartphones have always been a favorite gadget, as I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan (it’s a well-known fact that the idea for the cell phone came from the Star Trek communicator). So yeah… gadgets.

Back in the day, an obscure company out of Taiwan began making smartphones for a company out of Dubai called i-mate. These smartphones were the elite of the smartphone world. EVERYONE that was anyone in the tech journalism world went out of their way to try to get one of them in their hands, including me.

Fast forward to today. That obscure little company out of Taiwan, turned out to be HTC… and their flagship phones are some of the most sought after devices on the market today. Case in point – the HTC 10 is HTC’s latest offering in their Android line. This one is going to be kinda quick; but let’s see how well it does…

Hardware
As I said, HTC has one of the best hardware reputations in the industry. It’s always been great at hardware engineering. That being said, let’s take a look at what you get when you purchase an HTC 10.

What’s in the Box?
When you get a new smartphone, you nearly always expect to find a few things included with the device. Back in the day, you got a number of different gadgets and goo-jams in the box. This nearly always included the device, some kind of device cradle or charging station, a USB cable, some kind of carrying case or pouch and a set of earbuds. Today, that’s just not the case. Nearly NO ONE includes a cradle or charging station. I find that very problematic, as I don’t like to leave my device – in a case or not – just sitting by itself on a desk. More likely than not, I’ve got a glass of something sweet and sticky also on my desk, and I’m the kind of guy that works cluttered, as I like to spread out. This potentially makes the desk a water (read: liquid) hazard zone for nearly EVERYTHING on my desk. I’m fairly good about NOT bumping or spilling anything, but accidents do happen. Having the device off my desk surface at least gives my smartphone a fighting chance; and that only happens with a sync/ charge cradle.

The ICE View Case
When I got the HTC 10, I was really surprised that it didn’t come with w case. The HTC One (M8) came with the Dot View case. It was included with the device. The HTC 10 has a similar case, but it – the ICE View Case – is a $50 USD add-on purchase. It’s not included.

Now the ICE View case is a cool HD update to the M8’s low-red DOT View case, but it’s expensive, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth $50 USD. I happened to be fortunate enough to catch the case on sale for $20USD, direct from HTC, and my device is in one now. It’s nice and I think the device needs to have some kind of protective case. The ICE View case does a good job at $20 bucks, but a horrible one at $50 USD. At that price, it should do a lot more.

But enough about the case that should be, but isn’t, there…

OK, So What IS Included?
To be honest… not much. You get exactly the following:

  • HTC 10
  • SIM Card Removal Tool
  • USB-C Cable
  • Wall Wart Charger
  • Warranty Documentation

Notice, that you do NOT get any ear buds or other type of headphones with the device. I contacted HTC about the lack of accessories included with the device and got the following response:

“I know we used to include earphones but this time around we are teaming up with JBL to bring the highest quality earphones to consumers in a bundle package that will be coming soon to htc.com. The earphones have not hit the market yet. What you received in the package is partially due to carrier agreements as well.”

According to my contact at HTC, the JBL bundle was supposed to the partnership with JBL was supposed to come together in late June. From what I can see, it hasn’t happened. The JBL ear buds that they do show on the site, are just that – earbuds; and they’re currently priced at $200 USD. I don’t care how great they are. No earbuds are worth $200 bucks. Period.

HTC also offers as set of HTC Pro Studio Earphones for $80 bucks and a set of HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones for $30 bucks. The Pro set has a better dynamic range, and support HTC’s BoomSound audio profile. The plain Jane set don’t. You have to ask yourself if the HTC BoomSound audio profile is worth $50 bucks. For me… it’s not. Quite frankly, their entry level ear buds aren’t worth $30 bucks in my opinion. If you want a decent set of headphones, do some research on the internet and then go to an electronics store. If you’re looking for earbuds to get you listening to audio on the go, go to Wal-Mart or some other value retailer and buy a pair for $10-$15 bucks. Save yourself some money. Earbuds aren’t worth much more than that, in my opinion.

The Full 360
As you can see from the pictures, below, the device is similar in form factor to its cousins, the M8 and the M9. However, the first moment I took it out of the box, the first thing I thought was, “wow. This looks exactly like an iPhone.” In fact, for a split second, I thought I was holding an iPhone instead of the HTC 10.

To be blunt, the hardware is awesome looking. Check it out!

 

IMG_5490 IMG_5491 IMG_5492
FULL FRONTAL: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 LEFT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 TOP: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Notice the audio jack placement on the HTC 10
IMG_5493 IMG_5494 IMG_5495
RIGHT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Both the M9 and the HTC 10 have power, volume rocker/ buttons and SIM card slots on the right side. BOTTOM: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8 and M9 have microUSB connectors, off-centered. The HTC 10 has a centered, USB-C connector & a bottom speaker instead of the headphone jack. BACK: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8’s dual camera setup was so disappointing, they did away with it.

Camera
I’ve been shooting amateur photographs for quite a while now. I’ve become pretty good, though I will be the very first to admit that I have a great deal to learn when it comes to the manual settings on my cameras. However, one of the things that I do well is compose and take a good picture.

So, when I found out that the HTC 10 supported RAW camera files, I got very excited. For those not familiar with Camera RAW and its benefits, here’s a quick explanation. Camera RAW is basically a dump of the actual camera image that the camera captures when it snaps a shot.

Usually when you take a picture the camera will take the data that it captures and then convert that data into a file that your PC – either Windows PC or Mac – can read. In many cases, in order to conserve space on the SD card you’re camera uses for storage, it also compresses that file. While the choice of this file type and its compression level is user controllable, compressing a file always strips detail out of the file, degrading the image. This happens with JPEG’s and JPG’s regardless of the compression level you use. JPEG/ JPG by default has some compression to it, even when you choose a compression level of “0.”

This is an issue because when you go to tweak your photos, you want to work with as much detail and data as possible in order to insure that you get the best results. When you add compression, you strip detail away, and well, by now, you get the point – you don’t get the best results. Camera RAW is the FULL detail of the image you took, and is really the one that every photographer wants access to when they go to retouch their images.

However, most consumer based digital cameras don’t support camera RAW. While it’s mostly because 1) Most consumers don’t care about or understand how the loss of detail effects their pictures, it’s also about 2) The camera manufacturer doesn’t want (for whatever reason) to write the translation filter for your computer so it can read and edit the RAW files for that camera (and yes, each camera/ camera brand has its own RAW file format).

With this in mind, you’re going to need to do a couple of things

  1. Understand that RAW files are big. Pictures normally range in file size from 20MB to 30MB, depending on the lighting, detail, type of shot (macro, zoom level, etc.)
  2. You’re going to want/ need to store files on an external SD card. If you keep files available on your phone, you’re going to run out of space, quickly.

All this said, I was very pleased with the performance of the camera on the HTC 10. Full camera specs can be found below.

Primary
  • 12 MP,
  • f/1.8, 26mm,
  • OIS,
  • laser autofocus,
  • dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features
  • 1/2.3” sensor size,
  • 1.55µm pixel size,
  • geo-tagging,
  • touch focus,
  • face detection,
  • HDR,
  • panorama
Video
Secondary (Front-facing)
  • 5 MP,
  • f/1.8, 23mm,
  • OIS,
  • autofocus,
  • 1.34 µm pixel size,
  • 1080p,
  • HDR

The camera here has decent low light exposure and a decent depth of field, but it’s strictly your basic point and shoot camera. This isn’t going to do pro or pro-sumer level photography. Don’t expect that. The pictures that it takes are decent at best. I’ve noticed that zoomed in photos taken near dusk (some are below) can be grainy, even when using camera RAW.

Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the HTC 10. These are in fact JPG’s, as the RAW files wouldn’t have displayed in this review. However, they are done with minimal compression. However, if you’ve got a good eye, you may see some image degradation and graininess in them. I can; but that’s due more to the “Save for the web” feature that I used in Photoshop Elements than anything else.

IMAG0028 IMAG0029 IMAG0031 IMAG0032
My family at my oldest son’s baseball game. My granddaughter making friends at the game The following pictures are of the coach’s review after the game (they won…) This shot is grainier at the top than it is at the bottom. I think that may be due to the stark color discrepancy between the top and bottom of the shot. Its more washed out near the extreme powder blue of the sky.
IMAG0033 IMAG0035 IMAG0036
The coaches review continues. You can see some graininess here The graininess isn’t as bad here, though, as the picture contains more elements of color than actual white.

Communication
The unlocked version of the HTC 10 that HTC sent me runs on both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the US. The HTC 10 uses a nano SIM, and I was able to pull the card out of my iPhone 6 and immediately stick it in the HTC 10.

As expected, calls were clear. As expected coverage and radio reception were on par with my iPhone 6. The thing that DID go sideways with it was its communication with my car radio, the Pioneer AVH-X4800BS.

While the radio is Siri Eyes Free Compatible, it is neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto compatible. The radio uses an app called AppRadio One to display audio and video content and compatible apps on the radio’s 7-inch screen. If you want, you can call this the “poor man’s” version of CarPlay or Android Auto. It does much the same thing, but it’s a Pioneer product.

While I’ve learned that its nothing anywhere close to either Android Auto or CarPlay, I have found that the iPhone communicates and works much better than the HTC 10 does with this radio. I’m not certain if that’s a USB issue (the radio supports a direct, cabled, USB connection), a software issue (it seems to work better with iOS than with Android, in my opinion).

The radio does hands free calling via Bluetooth. That works, mostly, without issue. There are more minor Bluetooth communication quirks with the HTC 10 than with the iPhone 6. To be honest, it was one of the major reasons why I went back to the iPhone 6 much earlier than I had originally planned.

Android
The HTC 10 is an Android phone running Android 6.01 Marshmallow (or greater). The full platform specs are below.

OS Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 530

I have been watching for updates to the operating system. Since I received the device about three months ago, I have received two OS updates and a carrier update. The device is running well.

The only real concern I have is how long HTC will support the device with upgrades. The device isn’t cheap, and one would usually expect to have it supported with updates and upgrades for at least 2 years (the average of a single “contract” term with any character. However, that may not be the case. HTC and the rest of the other OEM’s have made it clear they’d rather sell new devices than provide support.

Conclusion
I was impressed with the HTC One (M8), though it had its issues. The HTC 10 is a far cry better than the M8.

The HTC 10 is shy on accessories. You get little more than the device, a cable and a wall wart in the box. Even on HTC.com, the number of offered accessories is limited to the ICE View Case and a handful of headphones/ earbuds. If you want a lot of accessories for your smartphone, the HTC 10 may not be the device for you.

However, as the device has killer battery life, and a decent point and shoot camera. Marshmallow is a decent version of Android, though to be honest, while it does a good job with the HTC 10, it’s much like any other version of Android since Jellybean. If Android is your mobile OS of choice and you’re due for an upgrade or looking for a new mobile device, this is a GREAT device of choice.

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Blackberry is Dead

Blackberry has killed the Blackberry Classic

blackberryI’ve been decrying this the 2011-2012 timeframe, I think. Honestly, I’m really very surprised the company has held out as long as it has, but based on what’s just happened, the company is over and it needs to hang up its mobile devices (read; cleats).

In recent news, Blackberry has discontinued its Blackberry classic – the last current handset in the world running Blackberry OS. Instead, the firm has decided on the following strategy, according to their COO and GM for mobile devices, Ralph Pini,

We are committed to the success of both BlackBerry 10 and Android devices. To keep innovating and advancing…we are updating our smartphone lineup with state of the art devices… The Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone… We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better — entrenched in our legacy in security and pedigree in making the most productive smartphones.

What this translates to is that Blackberry is releasing one Android phone every quarter, for the next three quarters.

  • Q3-2016: Neon
    This budget based phone should hit the streets in July-August 2016
  • Q4-2016: Argon
    This mid-range phone should be available in October 2016
  • Q1-2017: Mercury
    This upper mid-range phone should be available at the start of 2017 and is rumored to have a physical keyboard

While Blackberry – SAYS – it’s still committed to the success of both Blackberry 10 and Android devices, its immediate strategy doesn’t appear to include any native phones. In other words, I wouldn’t expect any, any time soon. This really makes Blackberry nothing more than yet another mediocre Android phone OEM, and with the devices they show above… I don’t expect them to do very well in the coming three quarters, regardless of price. Mid-range to low end Android devices don’t a lot of business in the enterprise. Those folks want flagship class phones. The market that does want affordable Android devices – emerging and “third world” markets – don’t want enterprise messaging services.

Back in the day, RIM – now called Blackberry – ruled the roost as the mobile device king, fighting off both Microsoft and Palm. Now, 12 – 14 years after their hay day, they’re just another company hanging on, trying to find a way to stay alive and remain relevant while continuing to rely on to IP and paradigms that just don’t resonate with today’s markets.

Are you or your company still using Blackberries? If not now, and you did previously, when did you stop? Do you feel that Blackberry has a chance at continued survival, or are they in an unstoppable death spiral? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts?

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IPhone 6s Plus Unboxing

Let’s take a look at the new iPhone 6s

This is the new iPhone 6s Plus. The device comes in four color choices, Silver, Gold, Space Gray and Rose Gold. You have a choice of 16GB, 64GB or 128GB of on-board storage space. The 6s Plus, like the 6 Plus, has a 5.5″ LED-backlit widescreen display with 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi, and a 1300:1 contrast ratio.

The new rear camera packs 12MP into its new sensor and features the same five element, f/2.2 aperture lens under its sapphire crystal lens cover. The biggest camera-based advantage in the 6s Plus vs. the 6s is the inclusion of OIS (optical image stabilization), that helps keep picture motion to a minimum while you take stills and more importantly, video. Since this is the camera that you have with you all day, every day, this is a huge addition and a clear advantage if you can live with the larger screen size.

The iPhone 6s/6s Plus also include 3D Touch. 3D Touch is an entirely new way to interact with your iPhone. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can sense how much pressure you apply to the display. Based on the amount of pressure you apply, the phone assigns different system events to that pressure. You get all of the familiar multi-touch gestures that your used to like tap, swipe, pinch, etc.; but now, you also get Peek and Pop.

3D Touch completely changes the way you interact with your iPhone. It completely changes the entire iOS user interface. I’ll have a great deal more on this in the review that I will be publishing on the iPhone 6s Plus later in the Month of October. I will also have some information on it in the first impressions document that I’m currently compiling that will compare, to an extent, the iPhone 6 hardware to the iPhone 6s Plus hardware (excluding the size difference, of course).

Did you get a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus? How did you purchase it – via the Apple Upgrade Program, from your Carrier, or from Apple, but via a carrier upgrade? Did you purchase it new or as an upgrade?

What are you most interested in with the iPhone 6s/ iPhone 6s Plus? Is it the camera, 3D Touch, the improved specs and performance, a combination of these or other features? Meet me in the discussion area below, and let me know what’s got you interested in the latest flagship smartphone from Apple.

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Ok, You can Unlock ’em Again

If you want, you can unlock your cellphone in the US again

When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) came into play a few years ago, it changed the way many people looked at not only their websites, computers, books, etc., it changed the way they looked at their digital phones, too.  While it was ok to unlock cell and smartphones that were tied to one specific carrier, before its implementation, afterwards, you had to get specific permissions.  That was fine until about 18 months ago. After a January 2013 decision by the Librarian of Congress, it became a violation of copyright, and therefore the DMCA to unlock your phone.

unlockcell

Recently, with the passing of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act in both the House and the Senate, President Obama signed the rapidly passed law which reverses that decision, until January 2016, that is.

The Librarian of Congress will again at that time review the DMCA, its previous decision to ban the unlocking, the law recently put into place by Congress and signed by the President and rule again if cell phone unlocking should be banned.

This effectively gives you an 18 month hiatus on unlocking your phone. If you want to do it, now is the time.  After that, it could become illegal again.

Congress wasn’t prepared to deal with the underlying issue of copyright that makes it otherwise illegal to unlock your cell or smartphone.  The issue is largely who owns the hardware and how owns the license to the software that runs on that hardware.  The problem stems from the way that cellphones are sold here in the US.

With subsidized phones, argument can be made that until the contract term is up and the phone is “off contract,” that the phone carrier really owns the hardware and holds the license to the software that runs the device.  In that case, making any kind of modification to any subsidized phone would be considered illegal until title for the device passed to the account holder.

With contract-less, financed phones (like those sold by T-Mobile USA), the issue isn’t any clearer.  There’s no clear sense of who actually holds the title to the device while it’s being paid off.  Like a car or any other financed property, the account holder may physically hold the device, but the title to the property is held by the lien holder until the note is paid in full and the lien holder relinquishes title to the property.  While the user may cancel service at any time, in order to do so, they must first pay off the remaining balance to the phone.  After that, the account holder can do what it wants to with the device, as the license for the software running the hardware passes to the account holder. At least, that’s the popular thought…

The problem here is that there’s no clear definition of who holds that title or when it is relinquished and by whom.  If those terms exist in anyone’s wireless contract, no one has brought them to light at this point.  And then there’s the possibility that the wireless carrier could maintain the license to that software even if ownership of the device passes to the account holder. Since the licensee can assert specific rights to protect their license (and therefore have some kind of hold over the condition of the hardware), they could theoretically prevent the account holder and owner of the device from making modifications to the hardware.  At that point, you have to consider who’s rights are more enforceable – the software licensee’s or the device owner’s; and that’s the rabbit hole that Congress doesn’t want to debate and get caught up in.

While the Librarian of Congress can reverse his earlier decision and allow cell and smartphone during the next DMCA review, I’d be surprised of that happened.  The review – as I understand what he does per the DMCA – is review the law, his previous decision(s), and if anything in the law has changed. Since there have been NO changes to the actual DMCA; and this temporary override expires before the January 2016 review takes place, I see no reason why the Librarian of Congress would reverse that decision, leaving us where we were before President Obama signed this temporary exemption.

For any permanent change to the process to come about, Congress would have to change the DMCA. If they did not do that here, then I see little chance of that changing.

This may be an interim election year where some Congressional seats change hands, but I don’t see this becoming a big issue.  While it might be a blip on the 2016 Presidential Campaign Trail, I don’t see this issue gaining enough steam to become big enough to be a huge campaign issue.

How big of an issues is this to you?  Are you a chronic iOS jail breaker or Android rooter?  Is unlocking your phone something that you need to do due to travel or are you just trying to figure out what carrier is the best deal for you without having to buy another cell phone? How important is this to you?  Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this as well as the DMCA?  I’d love to hear what you have to say. If it’s compelling enough, I’ll expound more on the issue in a separate column and get your name up in lights.

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Smartphone 101 – Retrieving Voice Mail

Retrieving Voice Mail

Voice mail is a wonderful tool and can be a huge help, especially if you have a busy schedule. Getting it and managing its contents can be a challenge for the busy individual. This section assumes you’ve set up your voice mail account and it’s all good to go.

iPhone

  1. Open the phone app
    VM-ios-01
  2. Tap the voice mail icon on the bottom right of the app screen
    VM-ios-02
  3. Tap the voice mail message you wish to hear. It will expand to show a progress bar, representing the audio length of the message.
    VM-ios-03
  4. Press the play button on the left side of the screen. The message will play.
    VM-ios-04
  5. If you wish to save the message for later, do nothing. If you wish to delete the message, tap the Delete button.

Note: the iPhone uses Visual Voice Mail, which brings a more tactile voice mail management system to the device as opposed to the more traditional voice mail systems (like Windows Phone, below).

 

Android

Please note that voice mail systems on Android devices can vary from device to device, even on the same carrier. Some have Visual Voice Mail, like the iPhone, above. Others have more traditional voice mail systems. The following demonstrates voice mail retrieval on the HTC One (M8) on Verizon Wireless.

    1. Open the phone app.
      VM-and-01
    2. Press and hold the “1” button. Voice Mail will be called.
      VM-and-02

next page

 

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