Simultaneous Voice & Data is a MUST

Frustration abounds for Sprint customers. Still in January of 2017 Sprint, who would like to be considered one of the big players in mobile for the US still uses some antiquated technology. Through my investigation and research it is a widely known fact that Sprint customers can NOT utilize data like surfing the web, sending iMessages or uploading pictures while they are on the phone.

As I call out Sprint on this shortcoming lest we forget the company they are within 1% of (according to Sprint commercials) Verizon doesn’t support voice and data either on many of their older phones.

Sprint though is the center of my disgust today because as far as I can tell even their newest devices don’t support voice and data. Research shows me that this is a hardware issue on the side of the consumer, Sprint doesn’t purchase phones that have the correct antenna array. Additionally Sprint doesn’t offer Voice Over LTE yet which is the other key piece, this is on the infrastructure side. I could be wrong about either part of this, Sprint doesn’t like to publish much data about their shortcomings.

From experiences of the people I interviewed about this they are all frustrated. One a general contractor let’s call Andrew, can’t send pictures or videos to his customers showing updates to work he’s done while he’s on the phone with them. Andrew wants to show the owner of the piece of property the headway he’s making on a remodel but can’t because Spring doesn’t support being on a phone call and using a data plan at the same time. Nathan a Hollywood businessman and another Sprint customer can’t send or receive emails or iMessages while on the phone with his business partner. They found a hack which is having to talk over FaceTime Voice which is using data so he can then receive text/email.

The funny thing is both gentlemen want to leave Sprint specifically for this reason but they’ve both been customers for so many years that they feel some sort of obligation to suffer. This is a crazy antiquated notion in my opinion and it’s time to jump ship and get on a carrier that allows them to use their phones to their fullest capacity.

What do you think? Are  you a Sprint or Verizon customer who doesn’t want to leave out of loyalty? Have you already jumped ship and gone to a different carrier?

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Review

I was very excited when AT&T asked me to join them at Hurricane Harbor to “test” the recently launched (yup, I’m very late to publish this) Samsung Galaxy S7 Active.
We were a small group at the water park but we made a big splash. Thank you AT&T for the fun day and the oppourtunity to review this phone.

The water park was fun but fast forward 2 months (see how late this really is…) and I took a family vacation with my wife and 2 kids. We went to Hawaii and spent a week being tourists. Every day we were swimming, snorkeling or just being lazy in the water. I am an iPhone guy, it has it’s benefits for me personally but I was using the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active a lot during this vacation. I took it into the ocean to play in the surf, the pool taking underwater selfies with my kids and videos of them on the hotels water slide and I even took it snorkeling, where I new it wasn’t very deep so if I dropped it I could retrieve it. That’s my one compliant about the phone, it needs to have the ability to attach a wrist strap or something like that.

Now to talk about the other details… It’s not small, it’s not thin and it’s not graceful but darn it this thing was amazing. I loved knowing I had a rugged phone in my pocket, not my dainty iPhone. The Active felt good in the hand, the battery lasted the day while I was using it for maps, keeping on top of my email and taking a LOT of pictures/videos.
For me having 1 device that was my phone and camera is great but it’s what most people expect in this day and age and Samsung didn’t disappoint. I’m not a camera aficionado but I think the Active takes better pictures then my iPhone 6S in that the colors pop more. I don’t know if that’s the phone enhancing the pictures for me but I don’t care, I was taking pictures underwater.
That’s it, it’s a Samsung Android phone, big whoop but it is if you have kids or live an active lifestyle. I’ve reviewed LifeProof cases before and they are great but there’s nothing like having a phone built to be tough. If you are a weekend warrior or have kids who seem to spill liquids or drop your phone then this phone is for you.
The holidays are coming and I can promise you that I would be stoked to get one of these as a gift. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is exclusive to AT&T so go get it there.

Lifeproof Fre for the iPhone 6/6S

Lifeproof Fre 6S BlueI’ve given Lifeproof a lot of love over the years because I’ve always liked their products and this review will be no different. So if you just want to know if I like it or not then YES go buy your Fre case.

I’ve had the Lifeproof Fre for a month or 2 now and have really come to enjoy it. I usually do not put such a bulky case on my phones but as summer is coming I wanted to write about a waterproof case. AT&T was nice enough to furnish me with this and boy has it useful. I’m a semi outdoorsy kind of guy so since I got the case and put it on my phone I’ve taken it sailing (got it wet), kayaking (dropped it in sand and water) and to the beach (it was in my trunks and got wet and my hands were sandy using it). As you can see I like water related activities so I’m really looking forward to the summer.

This Fre case has come a long way since it’s predecessor for the iPhone 6 was released. That case was great except for 1 thing, it’s charging port was to small to fit anything besides Apple chargers. The new iPhone 6S case has solved that for the most part. All but 1 of my charging cables now fit through the port.

The Fre case feels great in the hand and isn’t slippery at all. I have no problem hearing people through the case and they can hear me back whether it’s on speaker phone or regular talking mode. I like the look of the case though that never changes from year to year.

My only wish is that they would include a spot to attach a leash, lanyard, string or whatever else you may call it.

All in all, go buy one for the summer, it’s $80 of insurance that your $700 phone won’t get ruined.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Is Still Solid But We’re Waiting To See the S7

Samsung Galaxy S7 WaterproofWith the Samsung Galaxy S7 just being released there have been a ton of commercials online and on TV which have convinced me to do more than play with the S6. I used the AT&T Galaxy S6 all weekend and have been really enjoying the experience.

Samsung missed a few things with the S6 that have been covered to no end, lack of replaceable battery and memory. That being said everything else about the phone is right on. I’ve really enjoyed the feel of the phone but more than that I am in LOVE with the camera. This thing is quick and with the pro settings available to the user it is taking things to the next level. Some people believe it over corrects the color but many others appreciate not having to do any post production work on the shots.

As a whole, the S6 is still a solid camera and phone but everybody including myself is super excited to see what the S7 brings to the masses. With the Summer coming being water repellent is a BIG deal. Will it beat the iPhone 6S camera and it’s predecessor the Galaxy S6? We’ll have to wait and see.

olloclip Studio iPhone Case/Accessories

olloclip released their Studio product today, it is their take on an integrated mobile photography solution. On it’s simplest level it is a case with clip on accessories to allow it to mount on a tripod, clip on lights/flashes and one of its main add ons, the finger mount.

olloclip is no stranger to photography or specialized cases. They are most well known for their clip on lenses for smart phones which are considered the best available to the mass market. The Studio is taking this to the next level and giving it’s users the ability to take pictures and video with professional gear attached to their iPhones 6, 6S along with 6 Plus/Plus S.

The demonstration that was given during CES gives a lot of hope that the unit will change mobile videography. I’ve played with the case by itself and it feels good in the hand in landscape position utilizing the finger clip. The accessories are easy to attach and more importantly feel secure. They even added the littlest thing which you don’t see on LifeProof or OtterBox cases, a spot to loop on a wrist strap (that comes included in the box).

As more and more people start to use the Studio I expect to hear some positive reports and in all honesty I think we’re going to see a ton of skateboarding videos coming from Studio users. This isn’t for the casual photographer but someone who takes pictures and video as a hobby or professionally, especially in action situations using the finger clip. On a personal level this is great for anybody wanting to attach their iPhone to a tripod/monopod without having to change cases. This case could easily be someones daily user.

Will you be checking out the Studio by olloclip?

AT&T WiFi Calling Is A Miracle For More Than One Reason

FullSizeRenderSo I’ve been waiting for wifi calling for years and AT&T recently finally released it. For those of you who may not know it means that your texts and voice calls can now travel over wifi versus the cellular network it has had to traditionally. It’s a big deal… Right? Right.

Now you can get your SMS while you’re at 30,000 feet if you have airplane wifi like Gogo. You can make a call from your cousins basement where cell phone coverage is spotty at best. You can even fly to Europe and make a call on your hotel wifi… Err, no you can’t not yet but hopefully soon.

Back to why this is so great. I’m really excited because when I visit friends and family with bad reception my phone battery used to plummet because the phone was always looking for a stronger signal. At my parents house where we have to use the Cel-Fi Pro signal booster my battery would potentially not last the day. It was awful going in the afternoon after a long day of calls, I’d have to charge my phone at their house or my phone would die.

Wifi calling has actually made a difference in my life. No more checking to make sure my phone isn’t dying. No more having to go outside to make and receive phone calls (always fun in the rain). I think this is a big step for AT&T and I hope they continue taking these steps. Ralph, would you please allow your customers to use their phones over wifi in foreign countries as if they were in the US? While we’re at it and if it makes any difference, give us some MUCH better roaming options. I’m loyal to big blue but I hate having to get a local sim in a foreign country because your roaming options are so expensive.

Back to the good stuff. For now wifi calling is only available on iOS 9 phones from the 6 on. I can’t promise you though, I’ve heard mixed reports. The good thing is I assume AT&T will release it for other platforms soon.

Last thing I’ll say about this, I have a hard time receiving calls over wifi since the iOS 9.1 update. It hangs up and then rings again then hangs up and rings again. Making calls is fine though. It’s very strange and I’ve only found one or two other people with a similar issue.

Have you been using AT&T wifi calling? What do you think? I haven’t been able to use it much because it only kicks in when there’s bad reception and what Ralph says is true, most places have great signal and as a result I haven’t been able to test it extensively.

Review Of The Cel-Fi Pro, Smart Signal Booster

Guest post by Mike (my Dad) Brilliant:

Cel-Fi Pro, Smart Signal BoosterThe Consumer Cellular signal I receive inside my home varies from lots of bars to none, and, therefore, is not adequate for every-day use.  Many of my cellular calls are garbled from the start or start out being clear but soon become garbled with most eventually being dropped.  Most of my calling is done in one room, but the signal is weak throughout my home.  Since the walls of my home are the 2x4s covered with tarpaper, chicken wire and stucco I can understand why the signal is reduced.  In the past, I tried using a signal booster, but it did not solve the problem.  The Cel-Fi PRO Smart Signal Booster is supposed to enable calls in poor conditions, so I am writing this to provide my experience with it.

Upon opening the box, it is quite noticeable that the contents have been exceptionally well protected inside a double layer box with space between the layers.  Inside were four papers, two plastic boxes (the receiver and sender units which are called the Network Unit (NU) and the Coverage Unit (CU), two power supplies, two mounting brackets, and hardware for mounting the brackets to a wall or ceiling.

The exteriors of the Network Unit (NU) and Coverage Unit (CU) are all plastic, and upon picking up the CU, the plastic gave a bit and made the noise of plastic rubbing against plastic.

The mounting instructions are separate from the Quick Start Guide, but should be incorporated for simplicity as they are in most other electronic products.  There is also some redundancy in the paperwork.  Two times the papers instruct the consumer to register the signal booster with their cellular service provider.  Then a separate piece of paper with the same instruction is included for a total of three times.

These are just minor criticisms; and in the end, the basic setup of the Cell-Fi Pro is extremely simple.  Determining the location of the NU and CU, which is extremely simple, is the hardest thing you have to do.   By properly locating them, you have actually completed the installation.  It is that simple.  You wind up with the two boxes plugged into wall sockets in two separate locations within the building.  Although two mounting brackets with hardware are included, the two boxes need not be attached to a wall or ceiling in order to work, but the instructions to mount them are included for special situations.  Including the mounting hardware is a nice touch that is left out of many products today.

The wireless connection of the NU and CU is done automatically once both are plugged in.  There is nothing to do but wait a couple minutes for them to connect to each other, and they are ready for use.

The effectiveness of the Cel-Fi Pro is at the heart of why one would spend the money to boost a cellular signal.  What is important is whether or not calls are garbled and dropped.  Without a signal booster in my home, there are very few calls that are not garbled, dropped, or both.  With the Cel-Fi Pro, almost all calls are completed regardless of the number of bars on my phone.

I only care whether or not I can constantly rely on my cell phone for every-day use.  The indicated signal strength on my phone does not matter.  Now, I usually have more than one bar since the signal is now stronger; but even when the boosted signal results in only one bar, I can expect my call to be completed with no problems.

Sometimes, I do have a dropped call, but this is the result of the Cel-Fi Pro receiving a signal that, even when boosted, is still not adequate for cell phone use.  In that case, there is nothing that can be done, but I don’t feel the Cel-Fi Pro is at fault.

Overall, my experience with the Cel-Fi Pro was excellent.  Once I took the time to find the strongest signal, I was literally done with the installation.  The NU and CU connected themselves automatically.  There was nothing else to do.  The result was very good.  I went from having an almost useless level of signal to having a very satisfactory level.  The Cel-Fi Pro made my cellular service usable.  I can now use my cell phone in my home whenever I want.  What an amazing improvement.

Short AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6 Review

Samsung Galaxy S6 IMG_4359Wow, just wow. I do not say that very often any more about devices. Phones lately have become pretty utilitarian to me. That was until I got my hands on the new AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6.

This new flagship from Samsung has been a real pleasure for me over the last few weeks. For starters, Android has nearly caught up in terms of apps and beauty of those apps. They still are not as sleek as iOS apps but they’ve come a long way.

Looks wise it is a sleek, skinny and small in comparison to other current top models. In fact it feels pretty darn good in my hand, maybe even better than the iPhone 6. It does not feel TOO thin or that I’m always going to drop it like another phone I just mentioned. Oddly the bottom of the Samsung Galaxy S6 looks like a knockoff of the iPhone 6. It’s pretty disappointing to me that they look so similar. In fact the entire silver rim around the S6 looks nearly identical to the iPhone 6, it’s just missing the mute switch (which I LOVE).

Now to the camera. Oh the camera, it is a dream. For someone like me who mostly takes pictures of my kids, sunsets and activities I’m able to capture them all, quickly and with great vivid color. In so far as the testing I’ve done already I adore this camera more than the iPhone 6. It’s not even a close race, take a look at the picture I posted and the better pic is from the SGS6, no need to even label them. No one tell my wife I posted these pics, she won’t be happy.

Now a few things that I don’t like about this phone. My biggest pet peeve right now is that the fingerprint reader works maybe 1 out of 6 times. It helps a little that I put my finger print in twice. I recorded into the phone as 2 different prints which seemed to make it work maybe 20% more often. This is the biggest disappointment I have with the phone especially because Samsung Pay is going to rely on it for quick transactions. If Samsung can’t fix this there is really no point in launching their opponent to Apple Pay. My other big issue is with Android in general. I place my phone on my desk sometimes in a stand when sitting and I like to see notifications come across the screen. For some reason Android has not added the ability to have the screen light up and show me what the new message is that just arrived. Oooh, it has a blinking blue light to tell me a message has come in, great, I get about 100 email a day, who knows how many text and WhatsApp messages don’t get me started on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to just know I got a message, I want to see what that new message is, at least who it is from and the subject of it if it’s an email. It’s 2015 Android, let’s make this an option already.

Thank you to AT&T and the nice folks in their LA office who were kind enough to lend me the Samsung Galaxy S6. I don’t like to pump up AT&T all the time because they let me review phones but because theirs is the only cell phone service that works in my house. Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint don’t even come close, I’m not able to make calls in my home/office whereas AT&T has 5 full bars. Calls don’t drop, I can hear people clearly and their internet speeds are comparable to my terrestrial high speed internet.

All in all if anybody is looking for their next Android phone I highly suggest getting the Samsung Galaxy S6, it may not be the most rugged or have the best battery life but it sure takes great pictures.

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. iPhone 6 camera test

Backpacking Gear Review… Knife, Solar Charger & iPhone Case

IMG_0741This last summer I went on a 4 day backpacking trip and I was lucky enough to get a few things sent to me to use on my journey.  My buddy Jason Schwartz founder of the super popular outdoors blog RockyMountainBushcraft hooked me up with the nice folks at Secur Products and Industrial Revolution They in turn sent me out a highly portable solar charger as well as a super sleek fire starter knife.

First I got the Secur Products Sun Power Pad 3000.  It’s a small solar panel with 1 USB output  of 1amp and the battery packs 3,000mAh.  Some may scoff at this going it won’t charge my iPad or it doesn’t have 2 USB out ports, well you’re missing the point of this product, it’s super light at 8.7oz and for me, being my first backpacking trip ever, every single ounce made a difference.  I am inthralled with this, I brought it along thinking I was going to need to charge my camera, an 8mp iPhone 5s (from AT&T) in a LifeProof fre case but in airplane mode and taking very few pictures (I was trying to get away from anything that used electricity) it lasted all 4 days.  So you ask did I use the solar charger?  Yes on our drive down the mountain and home from our trip.  Plus now I take it with when we go to the beach or pool.  It has been invaluable because my 5s struggles to make it through the day I use it so much and when I’m outside during the day I have to keep the screen at full brightness.  I have been enjoying this charger and it’s worked well for me all summer and into what some people call fall and winter but here in southern california we call summer with a sweater at night.

Camping GearNow to the Industrial Revolution Swedish FireKnife.  This is a cool knife, besides being only 3.4oz it has a FireSteel fire starter stick in the handle with over 3,000 strikes and the knife itself is made by Mora (a world famous knife manufacturer).  We never had to use the FireSteel but it was nice to know that I had it and it was cool to show off.  It has a nice feel to it and looks good as well.  I keep it in my office to open packages for the moment because it is so ridiculously sharp but I plan to put it in an earthquake preparedness kit in the very near future. Maybe Industrial Revolution will help me with that, wink wink.

The last and most used product from my backpacking trip is the LifeProof fre iPhone 5s case. I didn’t use it all that much during the trip but I used it the rest of the summer.  It’s supposedly waterproof and shockproof but I don’t plan on testing either.  My concern with using the LifeProof case was that it put a piece of plastic between the camera lens and the outside world I wanted to capture.  Low and behold it didn’t affect my pictures at all.  In fact I have a few panoramas that I plan to print and hang they came out so nicely.

All in all I have to say thanks to Jason, Secur Products, Industrial Revolution and LifeProof for hooking me up with such great gear. I recommend, the knife, solar charger and iPhone case for anyone looking.

LifeProof’s fré iPhone 6 Case Is Another Home Run

Through LifeProofAfter using LifeProof’s fré case on and off since its launch I can tell you it is a home run.  LifeProof is known for making rugged cases built to withstand drops from over 6 feet and sealed from dust, dirt and water. Yup it’s supposedly water proof.  I say supposedly ONLY because I’m not brave enough to test it myself.  According to the package it can be submerged in 6 feet of water for up to 1 hour.

I regularly ask questions of the people I interact with and a family friends son is a competitive sailor, I talked to him about his case.  Another friend is a professional pet groomer and she spends hours a day elbow deep in gross doggy water. Both of them are LifeProof users and regaled me with stories of their cell phone abuse and submersion.  Though when they take their cases off the phones are dry and pristine.

Keeping in mind this is a waterproof and shock proof case it doesn’t add a whole lot of thickness to what some call a work of art, I call my iPhone.  The fré case on the iPhone 6 is just a tad thicker than an old iPhone 4s with no case on it at all.  That is pretty darn thin for any cell phone case, let alone one that is supposed to keep an iPhone from breaking if it takes a 6 foot fall.  The phone is big as it is and the case does add a little more girth around the sides but it is not enough to keep it out of your pocket (LP I’m just being honest).  In my personal opinion, the new iPhones are too smooth & slippery and the fré case remedies that.

Some may be concerned with the camera having another lager of plastic or glass over it… Don’t worry yourself.  I took my iPhone 5s in a fré case on a backpacking trip and took some amazing looking pics with absolutely no distortion that I could see.

Lastly comes the looks.  I didn’t think I would like the way the iPhone looks in any case but I don’t mind the fré case.  It makes my phone look a little tougher and the new iPhones need that.  The neon cases look pretty cool and make the phone easier to find in a pile of your kids toys (does that only happen to me?) as well as at the bottom of a shallow lake.  I prefer the white/grey but that’s only because I like white phones.

My only complaint is that I wish the opening for the charging port would be much larger.  I have some Apple certified lightening chargers and they don’t even come close to fitting into the tiny opening LifeProof left me.  So expect to have to use your original Apple charger when your phone is in the case.

By the way, my dog grooming friends’ case started coming apart.  When she asked LifeProof to replace it they didn’t hesitate.  It seems like they know cases are not indestructible but they take the stance that may affect their bottom line in the short run but inflate it in the long run.  They replaced her case and offered her any color she wanted.  Any company that has their customers back like they do is a breath of fresh air in this day and age.

In closing, I think the LifeProof fré case is worth the hefty price tag.  Yes $80 is a lot of money but if you’re looking for a quality case to keep your very expensive iPhone safe in the fré is the best in breed.