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.

Inflight Wifi

Onboard WiFiWifi in the air is a pretty new option for airlines but is it a lot of nonsense or a tool and deal breaker for you when you fly?

For years now I have been using Gogo Inflight wifi, for transparency sake I usually get it comped by Gogo. Over the years I have observed many people using it but what are the pros and cons and do you really need it?

The pros are you get onboard internet access for almost everything besides video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Though Gogo offers a selection of movies to watch.

The cons??? I can’t think of any unless you want to be disconnected while you fly, some people really do using it as a respite from the daily grind.

For many it is more than just for entertainment and checking email, with our lives in the “cloud” it is important to be connected to the web so you can access your files and use services like Google Drive and DropBox.

For others it is mostly about the opportunity to connect to coworkers, friends and family via texting/iMessage or some of the OTT services like WhatsApp or Viber. Still to this day my kids get excited to know I’m texting them from 30,000 feet up in the air.

Have you used inflight wifi? What do you use it for???

A New Romantic Digital Gesture (and a free be for you)

Love-Locks-2A friend called me last week and told me the long anticipated service his company has been working on is in its initial launch phase. The service is a digital love locks service on virtual fences around the world that you can read about in detail below. The company is slowly rolling out the actual advertisement of the service to avoid load issues so they made a limited  initial launch special promotion and reduced the price of the premium lock bundle from $6.99 to 99¢ for life. The special price will be updated before February back to $6.99. They also  give a free super premium lock for everybody who is a reader here and writes a post about the service (details at the end of the post). You should visit their service which is currently optimized for web viewing on a desktop and it’s in the process of being optimized for mobiles: http://www.lovelocksplace.com.

The service lets everybody create a digital love lock and dedicate it to their loved ones. Love locks are the padlocks lovers lock on bridges and fences all over the world. The digital lock is a more interactive version of the physical one, doesn’t require you to go (or fly) to the bridge and offers a media rich customized love token for the partner, a friend, a family member, a newborn child, and basically every loved person you can think of. This is an easy way to give a gift which is totally personalized much more than the usual Valentines’ bouquet or a chocolate box, it can be easily shared in social media and it is an eco friendly solution to the tons of locks put on bridges that already caused several municipalities to remove the whole fence from the bridge with the tons of locks and throw them away.

The rationale behind the service is to give easier access to tap into the lovelocks phenomenon and provide an easy way to answer the problem we all face when thinking about gifts and especially romantic gifts. According to Idan Gafni, co-founder of the love locks place, their survey shows that every couple faces at least 3 events a year where the partners are expected to gift one another. The birthday is one of them but about 40% of couples go out or celebrate the birthday instead of buying gifts while in anniversaries and on Valentine’s Day they are more likely to buy gifts and face the dilemma of what to buy. Idan points out the exhibitionist nature social media uncovered in our society and that there are many people who share pictures of gifts they got on social networks which is made easier with a digital asset like their love lock. “There is no way to predict how people use such a service until it is actually launched and used. We developed the service but people may use it for different purposes than what we anticipate like digital graffiti to claim digital space and to share their creativity and thoughts. We are very excited to learn what people create and to become an enabler for people to spread their love.”

If you are interested in writing about the service, help my good friend Idan, and also get an unlimited premium lock for free use their contact us form (http://lovelocksplace.com/eform/submit/contact-us), let them know you are a reader of this blog and that you want to write about the service and your e-mail address and they will get in touch with you.

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 RockyMountainBushcraft.com, 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.

BIG NEWS AT&T Gives Unlimited Calls To Mexico With International Calling Plan by @JebBrilliant

I’m out but wanted to cover some special news, I believe or at the very least hope it will lead to more evolution of AT&T’s international calling plans.
AT&T announced today that its international calling package, AT&T World Connect Value, now features unlimited calling from the U.S. to any number in Mexico, including mobile numbers, at no additional charge.
AT&T didn’t let the ink dry on their deal to buy Iusacell before announcing this. Now my hope is this will snowball into other roaming deals and next thing you know we’ll be roaming the world as if we’re roaming around the U.S.
What do you think of this?

IMG_2759.JPG

SkyRoam by 3GMate

Skyroam_3GMate_Unlimited_Data_hotspot_save_buy_best_innexspensive_travel_onlineDuring Fall CTIA in Las Vegas I got to meet a lot of different companies, some to interview for the blog and a few to even consult with on their future plans.  But of all the companies I got to meet, the most innovative is SkyRoam, led by Eric Plam. Eric showed me the 3GMate, the first product from the company and it’s pretty unique.  On the surface it’s a wifi hotspot geared toward international travelers.  It’s $99 for the “mifi” and it comes with 5 days free.  Each additional day is $10 for unlimited data, the first 100mb are at 3G speed and after that they throttle you down.

This is just another international roaming device that I’m infatuated with right? WRONG.  This mifi doesn’t have a SIM card in it, it has a vSIM or virtual SIM.  In this case it allows it to get a local virtual sim for the mifi in every country it visits. Meaning they get really good rates so they pass that savings on to you, only charging you $10/day.

 This is a nice deal and very useful for travelers but the vSIM is what’s exciting.  Imagine having a vSIM in your phone and when you land in a new country you get to pick the best plan from any local carrier.  For example when you fly to England from the US and land you get a message on your phone asking if you would like to switch carriers saving you money.  You decide how much and what in terms of data/voice/texts you need and pick a package on a local carrier in England and you’ll end up paying $20 during your time there versus several hundred.

Or if you drive a connected car and travel between Seattle and Vancouver regularly you can swap carriers each time you cross the border instead of paying roaming rates so you can listen to Pandora radio in the car.

Another example is M2M and the internet of things that needs to stay connected.  A vending machine comes out of the factory and may go anywhere in the world, if it needs to stay connected to report it’s stock it must be on a cellular network.  In that case, instead of paying a local technician to install a sim, it could just be provisioned from anywhere in the world.

These are real and costly use cases that could save people and companies significant money.  If anyone is interested in this I suggest talking to Eric and if you would like an introduction I’ll be happy to provide it.

Our world is getting more connected and it’s a good thing.