- A total of 43 phones or smartphones were released in Canada in 2014. Down from 54 devices released in 2013.
- Samsung & Sony released a total of 15 phones representing 35% of all new devices
- 79% of phones were released between June and October
- January, February, March and December saw no phones released
Motorola's latest phone has impressed many with its affordable price ($200) and exceptional battery life. The device, however, is currently only available in the U.S. (on Verizon).
Here's what the experts had to say about the Droid Turbo:
- Rating: 90/100
- Pros: Long battery life; attractive Quad HD screen; powerful performance; camera a clear improvement over the Moto X's
- Cons: Less charming design than the Moto X; no expandable memory; it's exclusive to Verizon
- Rating: 4/5
- "Even with its hefty design, the Motorola Droid Turbo's robust battery, powerful processor and vivid display put it on the short list for Verizon customers."
- Rating: 4/5
- "If you're locked in to Big Red and are looking for an all-around great phone that can do just a little bit more than your friend's—and you don't mind its uninspiring, utilitarian design—the Droid Turbo is worth your consideration."
- Rating: 7.7
- "Good stuff": Long battery life; useful software features; fast performance
- "Bad stuff": Chunky, heavy design; lots of bloatware; slow camera
Now about that battery... Gizmodo's Darren Orf wrote (Oct. 30) that although Verizon advertised the phone as having a battery that lasts 48 hours, he tested it and said, "in my short time with the Droid Turbo, two days seems like a stretch."
Orf used the phone as he would any phone, unplugging from the charger at 8 a.m., using it throughout the workday (battery life was at 35% as he left work), a bit in the evening and didn't charge that night. "My phone was dead by 11 a.m. the next day."
So, we've been forewarned.
All the major tech review sites weighed in on the new Nexus 6 smartphone last week. Here are some of the highlights:
- Rating: 4/5
- "Although the Nexus 6 trails the slimmer Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in processor performance and native productivity features, it's still the most powerful pure Android handset available and the largest Nexus yet."
- Rating: 8.6/10
- "Good stuff": Stock Android Lollipop; big, beautiful screen; fast performance
- "Bad stuff": Camera is only average; some software bugs; unpredictable battery life
- Rating: 86/100
- "The Nexus 6 is Google's first attempt at a phablet, and is the most premium Nexus we've seen to date. It's powerful, high-res and comes with the latest and greatest version of Android. But be warned that it's difficult to use with one hand, and its battery life is average at best."
- No rating.
- Pros: It's huge; solid battery life; beautiful screen; Lollipop (Android 5.0) is freakin' gorgeous; loud, front-facing speakers
- Cons: Seriously, it's huge; the lack of expandable memory slot is a deal breaker for some
Self-made tech review wunderkind Marques Brownlee collaborated with the Verge Video team last week (Nov. 12) to assemble his dream "Frankenstein beast of a phone."
The 4-minute video is fascinating not just in outlining Brownlee's design and spec preferences, but in the Verge Video team's interactive diagrams - which morph and mold according to his narration. Very cool stuff. (See video below.)
Here's a brief summary of the devices from which Brownlee's "Dream Smartphone" borrows:
- Body: HTC One M8 (with squared corners like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and back panel texture from Nokia Lumia series)
- Screen: LG G3
- Specs: Quad core Snapdragon 805 processor; 3 GB RAM; Adreno 420 GPU
- Battery: Moto Droid Turbo (has a 3,900 mAh battery)
- Camera: iPhone 6 Plus... BUT it doesn't shoot 4K video so, he goes with the Galaxy Note 4 camera
- OS: pure stock Android 5.0 Lollipop
- Storage: 128 GB onboard flash storage
Posted in: Industry News
Last week (Oct. 29), Microsoft released a video (embedded below) announcing its new wearable, Microsoft Band.'
The company describes it as a "smart band... powered by Microsoft Health" that allows users to "live healthier, be more productive, and stay connected with the people and moments that matter most."
Unlike many other wearables, which are exclusive to a specific OS (e.g. Android wearables only connect to Android phones), the Microsoft Band is compatible with Windows Phone, Android or iOS. For Windows Users, it connects with Cortana for voice command and search. It retails for $200, but Gizmodo reports its SDK won't release until early 2015, so users are limited to its existing features and integrations until it opens up to developers.
Gizmodo's Mario Aguilar (Nov. 7) said the Band's strengths are in its sensors and ability to track useful metrics (heart rate, run/step stats, GPS, calories, sleep, UV, etc.). As for weaknesses, he said the touchscreen interface is "a big disappointment," noting it's not pretty and notifications are "almost more of a pain than they're worth." He suggests waiting until developers jump on the Microsoft Health platform and the company works out some of the UI kinks before you buy one.
ZDNet's Matthew Miller was more impressed overall (Nov. 6): "The Microsoft Band looks great, the constant heart rate monitor does a solid job both day and night, the multi-platform support is more than we have seen from anyone else, and the smartwatch functionality is more powerful than I imagined."
The New York Times published an interesting profile (Oct. 8) on OnePlus, the Chinese company behind the affordable phone called the "One."
"This month, OnePlus, a start-up based in Shenzhen, China, will begin taking orders for the One, a fantastic low-price phone that tech enthusiasts across the globe have been lusting after for months," wrote the NY Times' Farhad Manjoo.
Manjoo raves about the phone. He's been using it for over a month and calls it "one of the best smartphones (he's) ever used." He says it's loaded with the latest specs and it runs CyanogenMod, a version of Android that's more flexible and user friendly than "the cumbersome flavors of Android now stuffed into rival phones."
I suppose Manjoo means the One is less bogged down by manufacturer bloatware. Very interesting.
The best part? The phone sells for $299 unlocked, which is amazing if it's truly loaded with competitive specs. Manjoo later added that the One is "just about the fastest Android phone you can buy, and its 5.5-inch screen is stunning," however its camera does not deliver the sharpness or color accuracy of some of its rivals.
Manjoo likens the One to the Nexus 5, "another high-quality, low-price phone — but over all the One is more powerful, and far prettier, than the Nexus."
Another catch may be customer service, tech support and repairs, which may be hard to come by here, across the Pacific let alone in English.
So who's making this phone? "OnePlus was founded late in 2013 by Pete Lau, a veteran of the Chinese tech business who was taken with the idea of creating a high-end smartphone for the masses," Manjoo writes.
"His vision was not unique; as the price of the components in smartphones plummeted over the last few years, a rash of Chinese start-ups emerged to make high-quality, low-price phones."
OnePlus is different, though, because of its desire to take its phones beyond the Chinese market. "Early on, Mr. Lau divided the company into two semiautonomous units, one catering to Chinese customers and the other devoted to the international market," Manjoo noted.
OnePlus estimates its sales to date are between 150,000 to 300,000 phones a month to the U.S. and up to a million devices a month over all, which Manjoo calls "an admirable feat for a tiny, year-old start-up."
These are definitely a company and a phone worth keeping an eye out for. I'm curious to see this device if/when it arrives in Canada.
Posted in: Industry News
On Wednesday (Oct. 15), Google announced the latest version of its Android OS, along with three new Nexus Devices.
The new version, called Android 5.0 Lollipop (Android L for short) will power the new Nexus 6 smartphone, Nexus 9 tablet and Nexus Player streaming media device.
"Lollipop's most obvious new features come in the form of visual enhancements and user interface changes, which Google has dubbed Material Design," wrote The Verge's Dan Seifert (Oct. 15).
"The platform has new, more fluid animations, a cleaner design with a bolder color palette, a revamped multittasking menu, and offers new ways to interact with your voice. Many of the new Material Design features can be seen in the recent updates that Google has released for its own Android apps such as Google+.
"The Material Design initiative is meant to unify the software's look and feel across various form factors, whether that's a tablet, smartphone, home media streamer, or something else."
FierceWireless reported yesterday (Oct. 16) that basically nobody is buying Amazon's new Fire smartphone.
A study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found that the Fire phone -- which sent on sale in the U.S. on July 25 (exclusively offered by AT&T) -- has only sold a few thousand units so far.
"Effectively zero percent (of Amazon.com customers) own an Amazon Fire phone," said Mike Levin, a partner and co-founder at CIRP. "In contrast, approximately one quarter of U.S. Amazon customers have either or both of a Kindle Fire tablet and Kindle Reader, and about 5% report owning the new Amazon Fire TV set-top box."
"In early September, just weeks after releasing the phone, Amazon dropped the price of the Fire phone to 99 cents with a two-year contract with AT&T," wrote FierceWireless' Phil Goldstein. "Such price drops often indicate sluggish demand for a product."
Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Posted in: Industry News
BlackBerry had high hopes for its latest smartphone, which is a throwback to its QWERTY days of old. Reviewers like it, but don't love it.
- CNET: A powerful, cumbersome love letter to physical keyboard fans (Rating: 3.5/5)
- The Verge: Getting stuff done or getting in the way? (Rating: 6.2/10)
- Wall Street Journal: Back to Square One (no rating)
- Forbes: An Uncomfortable Vision Of A Modern Smartphone (no rating)
- Computerworld: Qwerty meets quirky (no rating)
I thought it appropriate to include a couple reviews from financial publications (i.e. WSJ, Forbes), since stockbrokers were long the prototypical BlackBerry users. One of the resounding conclusions on the Passport, fittingly, is -- for better or for worse -- this phone is from a previous era.
"The Passport has some neat tricks and longer battery life than the competition, but it's living in the past. It's not 2005 anymore," wrote the WSJ's Joanna Stern.
Forbes' Ewan Spence wrote: "The BlackBerry Passport does feel like a throwback to earlier handsets from BlackBerry (see Research In Motion) and an attempt to bring all of those ideas up to date. Unfortunately BlackBerry's approach to updating the hardware for 2014 is to reimplement the ideas that were present on its older handsets, while other manufacturers have iterated those ideas through the years to create user interfaces that are far better placed for the needs of a modern smartphone."
Computerworld's Matt Hamblen: "I'm pretty sure tat anybody under age 35 is not going to care a whit about Passport's qwerty keyboard, including the ability to swipe with the physical keys. Getting all this questionable technology capability inside a heavy-to-the-feel smartphone doesn't seem like an effective way to grow BlackBerry or expand its future beyond its existing user base."
And that sort of captures it for me. I don't imagine many smartphone users will switch from their iPhones or Android phones to a Passport. Sure, BlackBerry has its loyalists, but they are, at last count 0.5% worldwide (Q2 2014, according to IDC).
As Hamblen alluded, BlackBerry's relevance depends on its ability to lure smartphone users away from their existing devices. According to the reviews I read, the Passport will not do that.
I tested out my co-worker's iPhone 6 last week and read a bunch of reviews on it and the iPhone 6 Plus. In spite of the bending and the hating, these phones unanimously review well.
- CNET: The iPhone Grows Up (Rating: 4.5/5)
- Engadget: Bigger and better, but with stiffer competition (Rating: 90/100)
- The Verge: Giving the people what they want (Rating: 9.0/10)
- Computerworld: A major new step in design and performance (no rating)
iPhone 6 Plus:
- CNET: The Most Serious Apple Smartphone Yet (Rating 4.5/5)
- Engadget: Bigger and better, but with stiffer competition (Rating: 87/100)
- The Verge: Big things have enormous beginnings (Rating: 8.7/10)
- Business Insider: I've Had The iPhone 6 Plus For A Week, And Everyone Who Thinks It's Too Big Is Crazy (no rating)
I had to look up whether Engadget and The Verge were owned by the same company. How else could you explain identical ratings on both devices? (They aren't. They are owned by AOL and Vox Media, respectively.)
We also took a bunch of photos of my co-worker's iPhone 6, so the phones you'll see in this post are of the iPhone 6 only (with an iPhone 5 in a couple of them, for scale and design comparisons). Unfortunately, we couldn't get our hands on an iPhone 6 Plus in time for publication.
I subsequently played around with my buddy's iPhone 6 Plus the other day, however, and I can tell you it's huge. It warrants the title of "phablet," much like the Samsung Galaxy Note devices.
My current phone is an iPhone 5s and I still love it. Upon testing out the iPhone 6, however, I was immediately struck by the size of its screen.
- Obviously, viewing photos and videos is better.
- Typing is also easier on the bigger screen. (Note: I exclusively type in portrait mode, never in landscape mode.)
- Twitter was a little more interesting as embedded photos appeared larger while scrolling through tweets.
- Facebook didn't seem all that different. Neither did email.
As for other major improvements, battery life is a big one. PhoneArena reported on the specifics (Sept. 9), and anecdotally, my co-worker told me she gets about a day-and-a-half worth of juice out of a full charge. My iPhone 5s gets me an 8 to 5 workday at best.
A number of minor improvements related to iOS 8 are also worth noting:
- Recent contacts appear atop the screen when you're multitasking or opening/closing apps, which is handy.
- SMS/iMessage is accessible atop the screen as well. It allows you to reply to a message without leaving the app you're in.
- The keyboard is also improved, and features suggestive typing (a feature stolen from Android), which is helpful. (Note: On smaller iPhone models, however, the keyboard interface is squished and in landscape mode, the typing area reduces to only two lines, making it difficult to read what you're typing as a whole.)