Category Archives: Technology

The best phone cameras for the money

Happy Friday folks. Say “cheese” to the newest wave of top quality camera phones, with two new models available in Canada, starting today.

These phones are the best money can buy, although one is surprisingly affordable. They are basically great for any cutting edge challenges mobile users will run into today. But today’s blog is about camera quality and what features make them shoot better pictures.

They are all Android-based but will likely be joined by Apple’s scheduled iPhone 6 “s” update, weeks away, with a still rumoured 16 megapixel camera, long overdue.

What makes these phone cameras so good, leaving the fancy marketing mumbo jumbo aside?

It’s not just the megapixel number. The size of the photo sensor and the quality of the lens determines the picture quality. Additionally, camera processing software, often third party, can make or break a photo, especially in poor lighting conditions.

The speed of the lens, is more about bragging rights rather than final picture quality. Unlike traditional digital camera lenses that feature adjustable apertures and shutter speeds for proper exposure, phone cameras have a fixed large open aperture. The LG G4 currently features the fastest f 1.8 aperture, while most phones range from f2- f2.8.

Here’s my take from a photographer’s perspective on this new breed of phone cameras.

16MP Samsung Galaxy Note 5,  16MP LG G4 and 21MP Moto X Play
16MP Samsung Galaxy Note 5, 16MP LG G4 and 21MP Moto X Play

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Two new phones, one budget and the other for hardcore business and play

NEW PHONES ARRIVE FOR NEWCOMERS AND HARDCORE BUSINESS

Motorola continues its production in high gear with a flurry of new affordable phones over the past year. It heats up the competition in affordable phones you can buy outright with no plan.

Moto G

  • The LTE-capable Moto G features IPX7-rated protection and scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for the 5” HD display. Its water proof in up to 3 feet of water—for up to 30 minutes. It has an all-day battery and the 13 megapixel camera can turn on with the flip of your wrist. The 5” HD display and Quad Core processor to keep up with today’s mobile demands. It feels nice to hold with careful edge wedging and a non-slip front surface. The Moto G is available in more than 60 countries throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. In Canada it’s available for as low as $200 outright or free with a two year plan at TELUS, Bell Mobility, Koodo, or Virgin Mobile and soon at Wind Mobile.

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Ford’s future mobility is not just about cars

The next time you buy a Ford you may have a MoDe:Flex E-Bike option to take along in the trunk of your new car.

Welcome to Ford 2.0 where not everyone has to own a car. The car maker is cognisant about how its core product will fit in emerging lifestyles, especially in megacities – huge built-up urban areas where the  traditional car ownership model is changing.

At the recent Further with Ford 2015 event in San Francisco, Ford didn’t talk much about new car models. Instead, it was about mobility in growing congested environments, where public transportation, walking, biking and off course the occasional need for a car (hopefully a Ford) all come into play.

Elizabeth Baron uses Virtual Reality headgear to probe layers of a car that isn't there at the Ford Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Centre in Palo Alto
Elizabeth Baron uses Virtual Reality headgear to probe layers of a car that isn’t there at the Ford Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Centre in Palo Alto

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Last minute super gifts for Father’s Day

Its Father’s Day morning and you need some great gift tech ideas on short notice. You’ve come to the right place! Even if you can’t pick some of these gift ideas at a store here, you can order it online, print out the order slip and slip it into an envelope for Dad!

You can’t go wrong with a Sonos WiFi speaker. For more than a decade, Sonos has been the standard of quality wireless speakers. Often copied by multinational companies but never equaled, Sonos has a range of five speakers for single speaker rooms to multiple speaker theatre setups, controlled by iOS and Android apps. Sonos key to quality wireless music is ensuring a constant flow of music signals through your home WiFi network, even in hard to get rooms. No blips, slowdowns or music interruptions.

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Even the most affordable and smallest Play:1 Sonos speaker – get a two room or stereo starter set for $379 – has smooth and rich sounds and surprisingly penetrating bass from the get-go. Every Sonos speaker made can still be functional with today’s newer models making a Sonos component investment long term. With 27 streaming music services support including the latest Spotify beta Android update enabling the Sonos Controller App to enjoy, in every room,  genres + moods, time-of-day recommendations, and the ability to start a radio station from any artist or track. Nice.

US based Ventev  has been making quality mobile accessories from cases to car chargers and smart portable battery chargers. They are quality made with a velvet touch grey colour texture complemented by orange highlights. You won’t see them in many brick and mortar stores in Canada but Ventev products are available online at crackberry.com  and   Amazon.ca 

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I particularly like the new compact Ventev powercell 3015+ battery charger which also charges directly off an outlet and can charge two phones.Look for the Ventev Powercell 6000mAh workhorse portable battery that charges directly off a wall outlet with 1 and 2 Amp ports or the smart dashport 2100c charger with micro USB cord for charging two phones.

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Canadian based farbe technik has a whopping 12,000mAh Dual USB dual Mobile Charger which automatically adjusts the charge rate to twice the speed for newer phones.  – White $79.99 and smartly designed wallet cases for popular phones through Best Buy.

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This is a winner. A portable WD 2 TB USB 3.0 compact drive for backing up (with a free trial program) or simply dumping data on the go for $104 at Staples 

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The Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner, $219.82 also at Staples, with 6400 DPI resolution for scanning old photos, negatives and slides. It has quickstart technology and can automatically upload scans to popular cloud services.

Kingston 256

For the ultimate SD camera memory card, check out the Kingston Technology 256GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-I, 90 Read 45 Write Flash Card for $366 on Amazon.ca

Happy Father’s Day

 

 

 

 

 

Free TELUS WiFi hotspots for everyone and short attention spans

TELUS recently launched more than 8,000 free WiFi hotspots in B.C. and Alberta. The service is free to TELUS customers and non-TELUS customers. But TELUS costumers will have advantages.

The Wi-Fi network integrates seamlessly with TELUS’ 4G wireless network, automatically shifting TELUS smartphone customers to Wi-Fi and helping them moderate their use of wireless data.

You will find TELUS WiFi at  7-Eleven, Fountain Tire and Vancity credit union.

It’s also in BC Place and TELUS World of Science in Vancouver; the Saddledome and TELUS Spark in Calgary; TELUS World of Science in Edmonton; the Richmond Olympic Oval; and throughout the Whistler village and ski resort. TELUS is currently installing Wi-Fi in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the Victoria International Airport.

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Adobe 2015 Creative Cloud now has in-app stock photos purchase

Adobe announced the 2015 release of Creative Cloud, an online subscription service for professional and enthusiast  designers, artists and photographers.

First, let’s start with newbies whose last Photoshop or InDesign was purchased at a store in a box with discs a while back, Adobe Creative Cloud is now your source to subscribe to a package of some 30 apps which you download online. Adobe maintains continuous program updates, including new features starting as of today and uses Adobe CreativeSync online to keep and sync files, fonts, photos, design assets, settings, metadata, Adobe Stock assets and more across all your desktop and iOS and Android smartphones. You can even share all these assets with co-workers.

Haze removal in Adobe 2015 Photoshop and Lightroom brings pictures back to life quickly
Haze removal in Adobe 2015 Photoshop and Lightroom brings pictures back to life quickly

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The ASUS contract-free ZenFone 2 is hard to resist

Last week I attended the much anticipated New York launch of the ASUS ZenFone 2, a new flagship phone that is heating up the competition between Chinese-made contract-free smartphones with all the bells and whistles and leading edge performance.

The ASUS ZenFone 2 has it all including nicely finished plastic with fine concentric ring surface

The Zenfone 2 features a 13 MP camera with ASUS-exclusive PixelMaster camera technology, a much improved ZenUI user interface, Dual-SIM (well yes but only one will take 4G SIMS) ) Dual-Active (DSDA) capability, and a new performance level against ANY phone.

Why? Under the hood of the Hull HD 5.5 IPS + screen is a 64-bit four-core Intel Atom Z3580 (‘Moorefield’) processor with up to 4GB RAM and an Intel LTE-Advanced XMM 7260 modem. ASUS convincingly showed how the world’s first 4 GB RAM smartphone could juggle between four memory intensive games, pausing between all four and not missing a beat when switching between them.

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An affordable BlackBerry for start-ups and old fans

The BlackBerry Leap, available today for as low as $0.00 with plan or $349 CAD outright, has lots of BlackBerry DNA. Minus a real keyboard for a large 5-inch screen and  some careful nip and tucking on the hardware side has made the Leap an affordable quality mid-tier smart phone. BlackBerry likes to market it for the young professional, meaning start-up companies who want BlackBerry device enterprise security advantages at a lower hardware cost. But I think it will also attract BB fans who have skipped a few upgrades.

Don’t let the price fool you. It has design smarts and functionality.

The BlackBerry Leap sans keyboard is clasically simpe borrowing features from pricier siblings
The BlackBerry Leap sans keyboard is clasically simpe borrowing features from pricier siblings

For starters, it feels just right to hold with a non-slip back and sides so it won’t slip from your hands, lap or dashboard. You can add micro-SD memory and oversized battery will easily make it last till the next morning.

The 8 MP main camera is welcome with more shooting control features and better than average picture quality. The images are crisp with good colour contrast, but the Full HD video does lose some smoothness in fast scenes – otherwise acceptable in normal shoots. You can snap a picture while in video mode too. Nice.

I like the selfie quality keeping you and things you are close to or holding in sharp focus on the first shot, as all phones should.

The Leap has a 5-inch touchscreen with a responsive keyboard, similar to higher tier siblings, including the unique feature of flipping accurate predictive words that appear on the keyboard upward to the text box. If you master this flip thing you will be a speed demon typist.

It features the same efficient multi-direction screen finger swipe to navigate between individual email or messaging accounts, a hub that shows all your communications, to open apps and an icon view of screen apps.

The screen reacts quickly to your commands, and although one notch down on “sharpness” and DPI tech terms, sharp enough with crispness and detail.

The Leap doesn’t have NFC but that will unlikely hold it back on upcoming store purchasing schemes.

BlackBerry’s BBM, available, in iOS Android OS, is superior to competitors allowing you to not just type, but use your phone and video through a WiFi connection, bypassing the phone’s cellular data connection.

As with its current siblings, the Leap has two sources for apps, BlackBerry World and Amazon Appstore with not as many apps as a full-fledged Android or iPhone but more than you would ever need.

BlackBerry Flex shell converts to a vertical or horizontal stand
BlackBerry Flex shell converts to a vertical or horizontal stand

The Leap’s legendary security features actually kick in when it is part of an IT managed company. Consumers still have to rely on their emails and texts to go through their cellco’s servers. But BalckBerry’s Donny Halliwell points out that the BlackBerry has never been jailbroken and its Blend feature lets you keep in touch with Mac and Windows laptops.

The Leap has the potential to find itself in the hands of frugal business users and fans on a budget looking for value.

Available at Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Sasktel, TELUS, WIND Mobile, ShopBlackBerry, and select Tbooth wireless and WIRELESSWAVE.

BlackBerry has also introduced three new Accessory Value Bundles for the Leap that include an unlocked BlackBerry Leap with accessories for additional savings, like the clever Flex shell and a sync/charging pod. Check out the BlackBerry Leap Efficiency Bundle, BlackBerry Leap Travel Bundle and BlackBerry Leap Power Bundle are available on ShopBlackBerry.

www.blackberry.com

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Two new phones – a tale of two cities

Two new phones are in the marketplace with a common goal but two vastly different stories.
The HTC One M9 with Android 5.0 Lollipop continues the tradition of the M8 with  top-tier design and performance improvements. It is one handsome smart phone.

The HTC One M9 offers quality and eclectic design for a top tier phone
The HTC One M9 offers quality and eclectic design for a top tier phone

A 20 megapixel camera and sapphire glass lens makes the M9 a serious contender for good quality photos from a phone. The familiar all metal curved case tapering to thin long edges is still there, making the M9 an easy phone to hold, but it does heat up more than the average phone, especially when watching YouTube vids.
To me the highlight is amazing sound with two front-facing Dolby Audio surround speakers making the M9 the best boom-box in a pocket.
HTC spared no expense with a brilliant 5.0” FHD TFT LCD 1920 x 1800 (real sharp) screen and an Octa-Core Snapdragon 810 Processor powered by a generous size 2900 mAh battery. It comes with 32GB memory but thankfully, it features a micro SD card slot which nowadays can accommodate up to a 200 GB memory upgrade. Nice.

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