Verizon Moto E 2015 PrePaid

Motorola released the second generation of their Moto E in 2015. I was curious about this device because of its near-stock Android experience. Best Buy has this phone in its prepaid flavor for $69. I thought I would give it a try. The Verizon store also has the device but they will not sell it to you unless you activate it before leaving the store.

Unboxing

The package is simple, nothing fancy. The phone is enclosed in plastic. It comes with a sim card and wall charger. It also comes with a manual and information about the radio frequency. Two things right off the bat I had a hard time with. The first is taking off the plastic screen protector advertises some of the phone’s feature. A trick you can do is peel it from the top where the speaker is. If you try to peel from the bottom left as it suggest, you will have a difficult time. The second is removing the plastic band was a little tricky. Once you remove it though, you will find the sim card slot and the micro SD card slot.

unboxing

Box contents

Hardware

For the price, the phone is a good deal. It has a Snapdragon 400 quad core processor running at 1.2GHz with 1GB of ram. You shouldn’t have issues with basic gaming. It comes with 8GB of storage but approximately 5GB of that is useable. With the microSD slot you can add an additional 32GB of storage. It has a 4.5″ qHD (960×540) with Gorilla Glass 3 display. It also has Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC support.

Software

You get near-stock Android experience. As of May 2015, you get Android Lollipop 5.0.2. Motorola has announced an update to 5.1 soon to be available as an OTA. The latest is 5.1.1, but at least you have a newer version than many expensive flagship phones out there. There are some Motorola apps preinstalled as well as some from Verizon. You can disable them but they still use up storage resources. Based on my searching, this model (XT1528) has a locked bootloader. Hopefully in the future it changes. The phone is also locked to Verizon even though most of the LTE smart phones come unlocked.

Camera

The phone comes with a 5MP camera and 0.3MP front-facing camera. I have taken some shots indoors and the outcome is not that great. At full view, it’s a bit grainy. I’m not sure if I’m just used to view photos taken at higher resolution or I had higher expectations on the camera.

sample1

4.9MP | 2560×1920 | 551KB | f/2.2 | 1/19 | 2.471mm | ISO640

sample2

4.9MP | 2560×1920 | 508.4KB | f/2.2 | 1/30 | 2.471mm | ISO640

The video can capture up to 720p at 30fps.

Conclusion

The phone is affordable and the specs are reasonable for the price. On top of that, I was able to activate as a postpaid device – without waiting for the 6 month period. I just called customer service and provided the IMEI and SIM number.

Going back to iOS

In just three months of using Android from iOS, I couldn’t wait to go back to iOS. I’ve been getting a lot of “I told you so” from friends because I went back to Android a few months ago and now I’m back to iOS. Like I said, I am a curious person and from time to time I bounce between the two to see what I’m missing. But my Android experience this time was a bit different. You can read about my LG G3 review here.

First of I’d like to address the limitations that iOS had that made me switch to Android and the solutions I came up with.

  • The bandwidth caps that most cell phone providers give their customers are horrible and doesn’t promote the use of the internet – unless you pay additional cost. I came up with a way to download content locally on to my device before leaving home so that I can access them when away without impacting my bandwidth limitation. In iOS, you are restricted to only using iTunes. It’s a pain and it will only work on one computer – and I use at least two on a daily basis. Solution: Currently we are using 4GB shared between two phones. We easily hit that every month. For $10 more per month, we can increase it to 6GB. Rather than add to an already expensive bill, we chose to watch our use. Recently, Verizon had updated their bandwidth tiers. Instead of increasing our cap by 2GB for an additional $10 per month, they increased it to a total of 10GB. For the situation, I guess this is a reasonable solution and we'll be considering it. I'd rather have unlimited bandwidth but that's another story.
  • For a user like myself, 16GB is no longer ideal. It is very expensive to purchase a larger capacity iPhone.Solution: Starting with the iPhone 6, Apple no longer has a 32GB model. It is now 16GB then it jumps to 64GB. I STFU, ate the additional cost, and got a device that fits my storage needs, haha. If it's truly an important, you have to shell out money.
  • Google Now actually bothered me more than I thought it would. I got mixed feelings using it. Sometimes it was helpful, other times it was creepy.
  • Verizon network still won’t allow data consumption while on the phone, unless you use VoLTE.
  • Multitasking is still limited in iOS, if not nonexistent.
  • Transferring files between devices is still limited. Although with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, you can useContinuity and Air Drop. Unfortunately, it’s only compatible with devices that have bluetooth 4.0 (2012 or newer – my Macbook Pro is late 2011). I can swap out the bluetooth card out of my MBP. The part cost around $70 but I’ll see if it’s worth doing. Some of the capabilities are still there like Messages integration, answering phone calls – those kinds of things.

I’m going to miss having a smart watch. It’s not perfect but it had the “cool” factor for me. Plus I still catch myself checking my regular watch whenever I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I gotten used to it. At this time, I don’t think I’ll be in line or pre-ordering the Apple Watch. Smart watches are great but for the price, it doesn’t do enough. I’ve already sold my Moto 360 so that’s a good thing. I returned the Nexus 9. All that’s left is to sell myLG G3 and I won’t have any Android powered device. I’ll still have a Chromebook though.

Stay tuned. I will have a review of the iPhone 6 Plus that I just picked up.

iPhone 6 Plus VS LG G3

The iPhone 6 Plus will be replacing my LG G3 as my daily driver.

HTC Nexus 9

Best Buy had a promotion where they buy back old tablets and give an additional discount if you bought the new Nexus 9. I had the 1st gen Nexus 7 from 2012. It was a great tablet. It ran the latest version of Android and it supported multiple users. Sadly, it started to run slower and slower. So I took advantage of the promotion and parted ways with my old Nexus 7.

nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 1st Gen 2012

The details of the promotion are as follows. I traded in my 16GB Nexus 7 and was able to get $50 for it. If I were to sell it on eBay, the average value is around $80. If you factor in shipping and fees from eBay and PayPal, I’m floating around $50 anyway. So I chose to go the Best Buy route and not have any headaches. With purchasing a Nexus 9, I would get an additional $50 for the trade-in totalling $100. Not a bad deal.

So The 16GB version of the Nexus 9 retails for $299, with the trade-in I would only have to add $200 plus tax. Not bad but the Best Buy I went to sold out. They spent over an hour trying to get one for me but they couldn’t and I’ve already done the trade. The manager was very accomodating and was willing to extend the deal beyond the expiration just in case they didn’t get one in time. I was also given an additional $50 off if I chose to get the 32GB ($479).

After a few days, Best Buy’s website finally had some in stock. I ended up getting the 32GB White model and paid full price. I then went back to the store and the manager applied all the discounts. I pretty much paid $30 more than the 16GB version – well that’s including the trade-in of my old Nexus. Enough back story, how is it so far?

Before we get into that, here’s a pic of the box. It’s white and it definitely stands out if you’re in the store checking out boxes of tables. It has a large 9 in the front.

nexus 9

White box with a large 9

Inside you’ll find the usual, device, charger, and documents that no one really pays attention to. Powering it on, I had 53% battery life so I was able to play with it before charging it up. That micro USB plug is just a great, standard port for non-iOS devices.

nexus 9 contents

Google Nexus 9 contents inside the box

Hardware

First off, this tablet is powered by nVidia’s Tegra K1 processor. Not only is it 64bit, but it’s a dual-core running at 2.3 GHz. Accompanying the processor is 2GB of ram with 192-core Keppler GPU.

Software

One of the biggest benefit buying a Nexus is being able to have access to the latest Android version. Out of the box, you will have Android 5.0 aka Lollipop. Upon opening the tablet, I was met with an update.

software update

Update already

I guess it’s a good sign of support. Lollipop is a great OS and it runs smooth. I did run into some weird lag after my device was off for about a day. After minute, everything seemed normal again.

Material design is nice. All of the Google apps are running it. It takes some getting used to but I can feel a bit more responsiveness from navigating around the app – it could be the processor, Android runtime, or a combination of all. One of my favorites is the recent app display.

recent app

Recent apps

I can flick up and down and the response is great, it’s buttery smooth. What I’ve noticed in many different reviews for the Nexus 6 and 9 is that they first start talking about the hardware but for the most part, they end up talking about Lollipop. And that’s what I end up doing.

Basically, the hardware is all the same improvements. It’s usually faster and lighter. But the Lollipop experience has been a breath of fresh air. Everything just feels right. It reminds me of being on my iPad Air and running iOS 7.1.2 (I haven’t played much with iOS 8). I think Google did a great job with Android Lollipop. I hope my LG G3 will get the update.

One last thing to mention. I added my Motorola 360 watch as a trusted bluetooth device so that it won’t ask me to unlock, but it keeps disconnecting. It’s primarily connected to my phone and/or it can only connect to one device at a time. I will try connecting the Nexus with my G3 and see if I can get that to work.

Motorola 360

I was pretty excited when the Moto 360 was announced during Google IO 2014. At the time, it was the only Android Wear device that was round. After a few months, I finally got my hands on one (they were sold out everywhere).

So what is the idea behind Android Wear devices? Well, to put it simply, it’s a device you wear around your wrist that receives notifications from your Android powered smart phone. For the most part, you wouldn’t have to pull out your phone from your pocket. Just look at the watch as if you’re checking the time and the notifications will be displayed. Aside from telling time, the Moto 360 also has a heart monitor and a pedometer built in. These features should work even without the phone in its range. So here are some pics I took during my unboxing.

DSC08054

DSC08055

DSC08056

DSC08057

The package includes a QI charger – wireless charging capability. It can serve as a nice looking desk clock while docked and charging. That’s really about all that it comes with. No additional band. The band it comes with is made of rubber and feels comfortable. I normally have a leather or metal band from the other watches I use – but no big change. Although, this is lighter than my metal band watch, obviously.

I bought the watch on September 2014. During the first couple of days, Motorola released an update –KGW42R. So I will be splitting up this post to include pre-update experiences and post-update experiences.

Before KGW32R Update Experiences

  • Android Wear is a bit buggy. There are many inconsistencies like the watch’s display won’t turn on when holding towards my face – it doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens enough to mention. Another thing I noticed is the notification of answering phone calls. There are times when I would answer a call on the phone, but the watch would continue to vibrate. There were even times after answering the phone, I would answer on the watch as well by swiping it and it would hang up the call.
  • Voice recognition is fairly accurate. It’s rare I had to repeat my commands.
  • Notifications can pile up if you ignore them. At one point, I had over 10 and I had swipe them away just to check the time. Also, to swipe them away, you have to swipe from left to right – opposite of what you’d normally do on your smart phone. It took some time to get used to but it isn’t an issue now.
  • Battery life is fair. My day is about 13 hours long. I get an average of 69% left after 6 hours of use – with ambient mode off. After 12.5 hours, I’m left with 46% battery life. The “short” battery life isn’t of concern to me. I have trained myself to charge my devices when I can. Even if this watch was rated to work for 48 hours on battery, I wouldn’t wait more than 24 hours to charge. It’s pretty much routine to me – when I get in to work, charge my devices; when I get in the car, charge; when I get home, charge. With the watch, it’s more of charging it as soon as I get home. Charging is fast. I would say about 80% worth of battery life can be charged within an hour.
  • In the car with my phone connected via bluetooth, the watch really shines. If you commute as much as I do, this is where I feel a huge convenience of owning one. Without the watch, you can use voice commands on your phone to send out messages or make calls. Unfortunately, the phone will have to connect to the car’s audio system before you can say a command. From my experience, this is where it becomes very frustrating. There is a huge lag during this step and commands get misinterpreted. With the watch, you can send commands to your phone before it connects to the car. It ensures that the command is understood correctly before your phone connects to the car (if necessary). This is a more pleasing and efficient experience. I did have to turn the radio down a little bit – it may create interference with background noise.

After KGW32R Update Experiences

  • From what I’ve read, this update increases battery life and bluetooth connection changes. Android Wear is still buggy and I’m still experiencing the same inconsistencies.
  • I’m not sure what else they changed but I find myself having to repeat more often than before when sending voice commands to the watch.
  • Battery life has improved. I noticed about a 20% increase in battery life. But as I mentioned before, it wasn’t an issue to begin with since I’ve implemented charging my devices into my daily schedule. It’s important for me to always have my devices available – hence I make sure the battery life can accommodate my tasks. I also noticed that the charging is as fast as it was before.
  • With the bluetooth communication update, it is now back to the old way. As soon as I get my watch to accept a command, it mutes everything in my car and awaits for instructions. But I think it’s more accurate than it was before and I don’t notice a huge lag. I guess it’s an improvement and muting the audio will help reduce background noise.

Other things to mention

  • In the Play store, there is no section for Android Wear apps. You can’t really search for specific apps that targets the wearable. Your favorite app may just have an update that now integrates better with wearables. You just have to go to each app one by one and see on the description.
  • Not all apps’ notifications can be viewed on the watch. For instance, Facebook and Instagram will have notifications on the watch, but to view it, you will have to open it on the phone. If you have a lock on your phone, you will not see the notification until you unlock your phone.
  • Facerepo is a $.99 app that allows you to change the face on the watch. The faces are designed by the community and are free once you install the app. You can also create your own and share. The app supports both round and square faces.
  • For me the vibration is subtle. The noise it makes grabs my attention more than feeling the vibration on my wrist. I haven’t found a setting to increase or decrease the vibration.
  • Bluetooth connection is versatile. When I found out that the watch synchronizes to my phone via bluetooth, I was concerned at how it would interface while connected to my car. It handles it with no problems.

Conclusion

After a week or so of use, at its current state, I feel wearables are not worth the price tag. I was close to returning it but I want to give it a chance. After all, it’s still in its infancy. Smart phones were at this stage before and look what they’ve become. If you don’t mind spending $250 or so on a platform with growing support, go for it. I can’t wait what wearables will become in the coming months.

I also recorded a video on Youtube. Check it out and subscribe.

Going back to Android from iOS

I spent the last year on iOS. I had a Samsung Note 2 and switched to the iPhone 5S when it came out last year. Here are my reasons of the switch. Text wrapped like this In orange is my solution when switching back to Android.

  • I hate how slow (if it existed) the Android updates we rolled out on devices. With iOS, assuming you have the last 2 generations, you will have access to iOS updates as they are released. Yes, I can root the device, but I don’t have to do that with iOS to benefit from it. (I tend to upgrade phones almost every year. I guess it isn't a big deal gaining access to the latest Android version. I could always root it but I'm lazy. If there is a feature I'm after, I will consider it.)
  • iOS apps, to me, are of higher “quality”. (After a year, more developers are creating higher quality apps… hopefully. I could also stop installing free, ad supported apps that drain my battery and pay. Apps aren't that expensive and if useful, I should support the developer by purchasing it.)
  • iOS messages integrate across devices (Apple devices). This is great because I can send/reply/receive to SMS messages on the phone, my Macbook Pro, my iMac, or my iPad. (It looks like devices running Android 4.4 or higher have integrated Hangouts with messaging. I just can't bring over my messages from iOS.)
  • iOS has less bloatware (Stocks, Passbook, Newsstand – I guess to some these are useful). Compared to Samsung (TouchWiz), HTC (Sense), and the other manufacturers who add their own useless, resource taking extras on top of Android. I am aware of Google Play Edition phones but unfortunately they do not work for my provider, Verizon. (I considered switching providers to AT&T and T-Mobile so that I can use Google Play Edition phones but their coverage (data) isn't great compared to what I get with Verizon. Data coverage is more important to me.)
  • Many of my relatives overseas are using iOS. Instead of creating/showing them how to use Google Hangouts (which is cross platform), it was easier to communicate using FaceTime. (Initially, I thought I would use it frequently. I rarely used it on my iPhone. I ended using my iPad on wifi.)

Here are my reasons why I’m going back to Android.

  • To conserve on bandwidth usage and hitting my monthly cap fast, I ended up downloading Youtube videos locally to decrease my Youtube usage when away from a wifi signal. Unfortunately, with iOS, you have to go through iTunes and 1 computer. I use several computers daily from my laptop, my desktop at work, and my desktop at home. It’s such a chore to get the videos over to my phone since I always have to use my laptop because that’s where my phone is sync to. In short, you are a slave to iTunes and one computer. Android devices mount as an external device on your computer, doesn’t matter which one. I can easily drag files over. I’ve heard of people using BTsync as well.
  • 16GB capacity is becoming unusable nowadays – at least for me. Apps are getting larger, taking more pics and videos. You can get an Android device of double the size and sometimes more, for a lower cost. Even if you get a 16GB Android device, the money you save, you can purchase a Micro SD card to increase your storage. You can’t do that on an iPhone.
  • Google Now has improved and I feel it’s better than Siri.
  • The data part of the iPhone gets disabled when you’re on a phone call. Emails don’t come in, MMS, you can’t browse the internet. Android allows you to do that. It is not limited to the network, it’s iOS.
  • Android handles multitasking better. These are very expensive smart devices. Let them make your lives easier not just play Candy Crush or taking selfies.
  • In iOS, you are limited to transferring photos and other iOS devices. You can’t even use bluetooth to transfer files to and from iOS and Mac OSX. This simple task becomes trivial. It may be allowed when iOS8 is released but it’s still limited to Apple products.

That somewhat summarizes why I’ll be going back to Android. This is not to steer you in any direction. I’m merely sharing my experiences. Keep in mind that the way I use my devices may differ from you, so our expectations will not be the same. I was waiting for the IFA 2014 event in Berlin to see what Samsung will announce (Note 4). Unfortunately, the new features on the Note 4 didn’t really impress me. So I plan to get a LG G3.

I guess one last great thing about iPhones is the high resell value.

Goodbye Android OS

bye android

I have been using smart phones powered by Android for many years now. My first Android phone was myTouch Slide 3G. It was a great phone with a built-in keyboard. Next, I had the Sensation 4G. Another great phone from HTC. Sense UI is great as well. The third Android phone I had was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (vanilla from Google). Though I miss Sense UI, this by far was my favorite Android phone. My last phone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – unlike the previous ones, this ran on the Verizon network.

Before starting my run with Android, I owned an iPhone 3G. It was with the AT&T network. At that time, AT&T was the only carrier that had it but unfortunately, the coverage was horrible. I really liked iOS but I guess the network coverage left a bad taste that it affected my decision for future smart phones – as well as AT&T’s exclusivity with the iPhone. I should’ve went back once Verizon started to carry the iPhone.

What I loved about Android:

  • It integrates with Google services seamlessly. Why Google? Because Google and its services seem to work with multiple platforms (Apple and Microsoft).
  • Battery can be replaced. Though I have yet to take advantage of this. All my batteries never needed to be replaced or upgraded.
  • Expansion of memory with the use of micro SD card. This was a big deal before but as many services are in the cloud, I find it less appealing. No need to store movies locally when there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, just to name a few. No need to store music locally when there’s Spotify, Google Play, iTunes Radio, Pandora, just to name a few. In fact, for me, storage will be primarily used for photos and videos. 8GB internal memory may be questionable but many phones come with 16GB.
  • So many different offerings from different manufacturers.
  • Lower cost of the phone.
  • Wireless sync with Google (recently, iOS no longer requires iTunes for syncing).

So why am I going back to iOS after all these years? Here are my reasons.

  • iOS just seems to be a smoother user experience than Android.
  • Most iPhones get OS updates. For example, iOS 7 is compatible with 4, 4S, 5, 5S, and 5C. That’s at least 3 generations of phones. What Android phone has this? Let’s not include rooting. We could include vanilla Android phones from Google but it’s GSM compatible only – the 3 generations of iPhones are all carriers – so is it a fair comparison?
  • To enjoy vanilla Android, you must have a GSM carrier. I’m on Verizon, so that’s out of the question.
  • My last phone, Samsung Note 2 (Verizon) has been plagued with the wifi bug on 4.1.2. After weeks of this problem, no solution in site. After getting my new iPhone 5S, I ended up doing a factory reset and it looks like it fixed it. I didn’t want to do a factory reset before getting a new phone because the restore in Android isn’t as I expect (see next bullet).
  • Restoring data in Android gets unexpected results – compared to my experience with restoring in iOS using iTunes. My phone never restores the same since the last update. Apps are all over the place. Some apps are reinstalled, some are not. Isn’t restoring from a back up supposed to be how the device was from the last back up? Well it’s not with Android, at least in my experience.
  • Siri is smarter.
  • My Note 2 has a quad core processor and was considered a “flagship” phone. Where’s my Android update??? I’m still stuck in 4.1.2. Rooting is not an option! Why root to get the latest? I paid for this phone, I shouldn’t have to root.

After all the frustration, I think I’ve had enough. Goodbye Android, hello iOS… again

Two failed Ematic tablets

I recently purchased an Ematic EGP007 from Altatac. It was refurbished and was a very good price. It ran Android 4.0. Upon receiving it, the tablet never worked. I turn it on and it would just freeze during boot up. Altatac refunded my money without any problems, kudos to them.

A few days later they had another special on a brand new Ematic EGM002. I figured, the price is good and it’s brand new, maybe I’ll have better luck. So here it is.

tablet

I was able to play with it after a few days. It uses its own app store and you don’t need to create an account. It doesn’t have all the apps that you would find in the Android Play store though, but it’s good enough. If you find it lacking, you can always install Amazon’s app store for the Android. Overall, the performance is what you’d expect for a low cost tablet. When you first run apps, it’s very slow to load. But once it’s running, it’s tolerable.

Unfortunately, the touch screen became unresponsive. I contacted Altatac again, and again they made it easy for me to return the product for a refund. By the way, if this happened to you, the way to do a reset is to hold the power button down for 6 seconds. With the screen unresponsive, I couldn’t even restart the device and it took a few minutes to search online on how to do a hard reset. This could be my last attempt with Ematic tablets. Very affordable, but you get what you pay for. I would buy from Altatac again for their customer service.