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Posts Tagged ‘review’

Glove app review: how to find the best mobile network

Friday, August 8th, 2014

It’s always super annoying to deal with a crappy mobile signal – not least because it’s never clear what the exact issue is. Is your phone just bad? Maybe you’re on the wrong network? It’s maddening, and with the long commitments inherent in mobile contracts, you don’t have the luxury to switch carriers willy-nilly until you find one that suits you.

Glove is an app that attempts to solve this problem, allowing you to find the best mobile carrier in the places you actually use your phone. Here’s how it works.

Finding a carrier that fits like a glove

For three days, the Glove app runs in the background of your phone, using GPS to note down your location. Ideally, during these days you’ll be at home, be at work, and be anywhere else that you spend a decent amount of time. It compares your current signal strength with crowd-sourced results from other mobile carriers in the same area.

After three days, it presents you with a selection of carriers; ideally these recommendations will provide you with the best possible signal strength and data speeds in your area. The app also shows you deals for each carrier to give you an idea of what’s available should you decide to switch.

My experience using the app

I ran Glove for three days, encompassing a pretty standard pattern for me – working at home, traveling to the Mobile Fun offices, and spending time in town. Once the three days are up, I got an excited notification… stating that the results would be coming soon.

A few minutes later, and the results were actually available. O2 (including giffgaff) were rated as the best (score 4.33/5), followed by EE (3.29), Vodafone (3.15) and my current carrier Three (1.68). I’ve had some issues with signal strength with Three, particularly indoors, compared to O2, so the ratings seem at least somewhat realistic.

The offers promised by the app were only available for O2, and required that someone actually call you up and give them to you (which I didn’t acquiesce to). There was also an option to ‘see plans’ for each carrier, but these merely took me to each carrier’s generic web store, without any specific recommendations. It was a bit disappointing after running the app for three days; I had expected something more personalised at this latter step.

Of course, it’s hard to tell how accurate the final results actually are. The cynical side of me suspects that the app will just refer you to the carrier that it gets the best bonuses from; ultimately this is a free app without ads so these referrals are the only way the developers will get paid. Hopefully though, the value of providing an accurate (and ethical) service will eclipse that of short-term money-making for the company.

Wrap-up

Ultimately, I’ve got mixed impressions of the Glove app. While the app is easy to use and seems to produce an accurate picture of carrier signal strength, there are still only four carriers it can compare between, none of which you’re likely to have overlooked.

I would have also liked to see a better final step. It would have been brilliant to have it include tracking of calls made, texts sent and data used in order to produce a few recommended contract or pay-as-you-go plans on the carriers it suggested. Instead, you’re just left at a carrier’s generic store page, where there’s still an almost overwhelming amount of choice.

Regardless, considering the app is free and requires no interaction, it’s hard to really knock it. You may as well run it on your phone, and see what carrier recommendations it produces – you may just find you get a recommendation that you didn’t expect.

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Samsung Galaxy S5 review: hands-on

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Pros:

  • Bright and beautiful AMOLED screen
  • Less plastic, more premium than previous Galaxy devices

Cons:

  • Gimmicky hardware additions
  • TouchWiz modifications may not be to everyone’s taste

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest in Samsung’s line of flagship Android phones, refining rather than redefining the series.

Running Android Kitkat (4.4.2) out of the box and with the requisite TouchWiz additions (now loved and hated by Samsung fans in equal measure), alongside a 2.5ghz Quad Core Processor, interaction with the S5 feels silky smooth.

Its 5.1” 1080P AMOLED Screen gives a striking first impression and the relatively thin bezels prevent it from edging too close to ‘phablet’ territory also keeping it fractionally smaller than the Sony Xperia Z and HTC One (M8), its two closest competitors. The fantastic screen also perfectly showcases the new 16MP Camera which is capable of filming at 4K.

The review model is ‘Pearl White’ but the S5 is also available in Black, Blue and Gold (not quite the champagne gold which seems to be ‘in’ now, but close) and has a ‘dimpled’ finish making it feel much less plasticy than previous Galaxy models.

One of the more interesting additions to this year’s model is a heart-rate monitor located on the back of the device, just below the camera lens. It’s closely integrated with Samsung’s S Health App but its necessity is questionable.

Further, and in a clear attempt to ape the iPhone 5 and HTC One Max whilst adding another USP, the S5 includes a fingerprint scanner – ideal for upping security on the device although its reliability is something that requires a longer term test. So far the consensus is that this is not as accurate and useful as the one featured on the iPhone 5S.

Following the trend set by the Sony Xperia Z, The S5 is both water and dust resistant. Although not to quite the same extent, it will easily survive a drop in the sink or on the beach.

In conclusion, the Galaxy S5 is a worthy successor to the S4, improving significantly enough to make the upgrade worthwhile whilst also performing favourably when compared to close competitors (the Sony Xperia Z2 and HTC One (M8)). Price-wise it does tend to be the cheaper of the 3 flagships so certainly a strong contender for your hard-earned cash.

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Speck CandyShell Grip Case for Galaxy S5 Review

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

These Speck CandyShell Grip cases for the Galaxy S5 recently appeared at Mobile Fun HQ, so I decided to do a brief review of ‘em!

The idea behind the CandyShell Grip case is a dual-layer design with rubberised ridges on the back and sides of the case. These make the case easier to grasp and harder to drop, preventing damage to your phone. The dual layer design, which uses a shock absorbent lining and a hard impact-resistant exterior, provides a good amount of protection without making the case too bulky.

In hand, the case (with no phone installed) can be twisted, but is rigid in other dimensions (it can’t easily be folded, for example). This limited flexibility makes for a sturdy feel, but also makes removing the case more difficult. The CandyShell Grip has a raised lip around the screen, which limits swiping at the side of the screen but also prevents the screen from bearing the brunt of an impact – a big factor in avoiding costly repairs.

The cutouts are all neatly done, with precisely cut holes for the camera, speaker, microphone array, headphone jack and bottom microUSB flap. All buttons are covered by covers, which are a little harder to press than the naked controls, but offer more protection against knocks (and more importantly) water ingress.

Once the case is installed, you’re left with a marginally thicker Galaxy S5, but still one that is easily pocketable. The added friction from the ridges makes it a bit harder to get the phone into and out of your pocket, but it’s not a dealbreaker by any means.

The branding here is quite inoffensive, with a few lines inside the case and a single logo on the back which is stylish enough. I’m a fan of the Aloe Green / Carribean Blue colour I tried, but there are also more standard white / black and black / slate options.

All in all, the CandyShell Grip for the Galaxy S5 seems a well-designed case that offers a good amount of protection without unduly sacrificing the S5′s thin shape. If you like the look of this Speck Galaxy S5 case, I’d definitely recommend ordering one for yourself.

It’s also worth noting that we’ve got Speck CandyShell cases for a range of phones – the best place to see ‘em all is at the Speck category page, or by searching ‘Speck’ and then the name of your phone on our site. Thanks!

Pros

  • Slim but sturdy dual-layer protection
  • Adds grip to the sides of your phone, reducing the chance of a drop
  • Raised bezel around the screen protects against the screen shattering
  • Carefully crafted cutouts and button covers

 Cons

  • Removing the phone from the case takes some practice
  • Pocketing the phone is a bit harder, thanks to increased bulk and friction

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Samsung Galaxy S2 Desktop Sync and Charge Cradle With HDMI Out Review

Friday, December 16th, 2011

With the Samsung Galaxy S2 packing a powerful 8MP camera capable of shooting stunning full HD video it’s just as well it comes with 16GB of onboard storage as standard; but what about when you want to share all your photos and videos with your friends? True it has an impressive array of features for sharing and uploading your recordings but it also has one rather well kept secret.

Instead of a normal USB port the Samsung Galaxy S2 has a Mobile High-Definition Link (or MHL) port, which allows you to plug all manner of things into it. The best use I’ve found though, is to plug that big TV in your living room in via an HDMI adapter to play back all those videos back on a massive display the way they were meant to be viewed.

One of the best solutions I’ve found is to use a mobile phone dock with an HDMI output which allowed me to output holiday videos to a 40” TV at 1080i resolution. Seeing them on a large screen really demonstrates how good the camera on the S2 is. Of course it isn’t just things you’ve recorded yourself, with the ability to stream and download videos and films from YouTube and – more recently – Android Market.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Desktop Sync and Charge Cradle With HDMI Out

The dock I used felt well built and had some weight to it, which is handy considering the S2 certainly doesn’t! When docked the phone sat at just the right angle to still use it when placed on my desk, and didn’t budge when using the touchscreen or home button.

In order to fully test the dock I downloaded and watched a film from Android Market, and whilst the lack of an HD option was a bit annoying (but perhaps something we can look forward to in the next year or so as Android devices start sporting HD displays) it still played really well, and looked and sounded great. The Galaxy S2 being as powerful as it is of course this didn’t surprise me!

Throughout my testing of the dock I did experience one problem I couldn’t quite eliminate, which was that my Wi-Fi signal would drop out when docked and outputting via HDMI. This wasn’t a massive bother as I was still able to download extra content beforehand (the film downloaded straight off Market and could be rewatched for up to 48 hours after the first viewing), and obviously all of my holiday films were already on the phone’s memory; however it did rule out streaming which would have been useful. Admittedly though, streaming aside, if you’re watching a film you probably don’t need an internet connection!

Pros:

  • Watch films and home videos from your Galaxy S2 using just a normal HDMI cable.
  • Demonstrate to your friends your (not so) amazing skills on Angry Birds.
  • Charge your phone while it’s docked so it never runs out of power when you need it.

Cons:

  • Wi-Fi signal dropouts made streaming impossible.
  • The Galaxy S2 appears to only support 1080i, which (some claim) lacks the full quality of 1080p. This is a limitation of the handset however; not the dock.

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Product Review: Desk Genie Non Slip Charging Desk Stand

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Back in November we launched the Desk Genie – a non slip desk stand that works with any mobile phone or portable device. It’s now one of our top selling Desk Stands, so I thought I’d take a closer look at it to see why this desk stand is proving to be so popular.

Desk Genie - Non Slip Charging Desk Stand

Desk Genie - Non Slip Charging Desk Stand

In the Box

I was a little surprised when I received my test Desk Genie as the box was smaller than I was expecting. Despite the compact packaging though, you still get a lot with it. In addition to the Stand itself, you get a Mini USB data cable, a charging cable and 8 different charging tips. The tips connect to the charging cable and allow you to charge your phone. Tips are included for:

  • Apple iPod/iPhone
  • Sony Ericsson ‘Fast Port’
  • Nokia 2mm
  • LG
  • Samsung (older style)
  • Samsung (newer style)
  • Micro USB
  • Mini USB

The Mini USB adapter will work with most BlackBerry, Motorola and HTC devices. The Micro USB adapter will work with any brand of handset that has a Micro USB charging port.

Desk Genie Charging Tips

Desk Genie Charging Tips

Design

The Desk Genie is a solid looking desk stand, but I did wonder how it was going to hold anything. The near 45° angle of the stand with what looked like a smooth, shiny surface made me think that it wasn’t going to hold anything. The angled pad has a rubberised, non slip mat attached to it, which although shiny and smooth is extremely grippy. You can’t really tell by touching it, but as soon as you place anything on it you’ll be surprised. Your phone, MP3 player PVP just don’t move. On the front of the stand is a discreet blue LED that lights to show that it’s connected to a power supply and each of the two sides has a brushed metal plate housing the USB and memory card slots.

Desk Genie Non-Slip Charging Desk Stand

Desk Genie Non-Slip Charging Desk Stand

USB Hub

The Desk Genie isn’t just a phone holder. It connects to your computer or laptop using a Mini USB cable. This would normally be a problem if you only have a couple of USB ports and have other USB devices connected to your computer, (printers, mice, keyboards, cameras, hard drives etc) but the Desk Genie has a 2 port USB Hub built into the base. This means that you’re not tying up a USB port unnecessarily but gaining and additional one and also means that you’ve now got 2 easily accessible USB ports on your desktop.

Memory Card Reader

On the other side of the base is an 8-in-1 memory card reader. It can read MicroSD, M2, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, SD, MMC, RSMMC and Mini SD cards although you will need adapters for some of them (not included). Card readers aren’t as necessary as they once were given that most mobile phones and cameras can now connect using a USB cable, but if you prefer to work straight from the memory card, this is a much better way of handling them and saves you the hassle of rummaging around to find a USB card reader or unplugging other devices just to free up a USB port.

Charging

As mentioned before, you get a charging cable and a number of charging tips in the box with the Desk Genie. These tips should cover just about every phone that’s been made by one of the leading handset manufacturers. To charge your phone, you just connect the relevant tip to the charging cable and plug it in to the Desk Genie and your phone. Easy. If you also want to sync your phone with your PC or Mac while it’s charging, then you’ll need to use your existing USB Cable and connect it to one of the USB ports on the base of the Desk Genie. If your phone uses the same port for charging and data then you won’t need to use the charging cable.

The Desk Genie can hold and charge almost any phone

The Desk Genie can hold and charge almost any phone

Why Choose the Desk Genie

The Desk Genie is a great accessory for anyone that likes their phone to be visible when they’re sat at their desk. It’s compatible with just about every phone on the market, and the fact that it’s got a card reader and USB hub built in means that you can free up some ports on your computer and won’t have to get down on your hands and knees under your desk to plug your camera in. It’s one of our biggest selling Desk Stands and is getting some great reviews online. The most recent was Smartphone Essentials Magazine – you can see what their editors had to say about it below:

SmartPhone Essentials Magazine Review

The Desk Genie is a multi-talented non-slip charging desk stand. The magic lies in the strange, grippy mat that takes up the front of the stand. The surface doesn’t look or even feel like it could hold a coin, but it can hold more than that. We tried an iPod, mobile phone and a hefty smartphone and all stuck to the pad as intended. You are probably now asking yourself why?
The non-slip holds  a device which is then plugged into the stand, which is plugged into a USB port, ready to charge up the attached device. The Desk Genie comes with a plethora of connectors offering support for pretty much every mobile device available. The stand is also more than just a stand. The base incorporates two USB ports and four memory card slots, ideal for transferring files to the connected desktop.
The Desk Genie is a neat and almost understated device, if not a little cable and connection crazy, and we have to say it’s definitely worth your hard-earned cash. 8/10

The Desk Genie is available to order now for just £14.99.

Prices and availability are correct as of the date of this post and are subject to change.