Entries Tagged as 'Deals'

OnePlus One

I’m fully subscribed to the Android ecosystem, so if you’re a iPhone fan you’ll probably want to find a different review of the OnePlus One.  I’ve had a long history of Android, starting with the original Droid, the Xoom, the Nexus S, the S2, the S3, the Nexus 4, the Nexus 7, and the Nexus 5 — plus quite a bit of experience with very low end Android devices.

Frankly I was quite hesitant to believe what I’d read online about the OnePlus One and didn’t order mine until a friend of mine showed me his (he’s just gotten it).  Impressive I though, particularly at the price… we’ll talk about that in a minute.

At the bottom of this post I’ve include specifications for the OnePlus One, both from GSMArena.com and OnePlus.net, but in short the OnePlus One is a near phablet sized handset: a 5.5 inch JDI with 1080p (1920×1080) 401 PPI IPS screen, a Qualcomm quad-core processor, an Adreno GPU with 3GB of RAM.

I had to retrieve my shipment from the post office (OnePlus uses USPS Priority Mail with delivery confirmation in the US, and mine shipped from the outskirts of Los Angeles, CA).  I was less than impressed with the shipping container (a bubble padded pouch), but upon opening it neither the box containing the handset or the power adapter were in the least bit damaged.

When I opened the box the plastic cover on the screen had crap on it — I really hate that, why can’t handset vendors just put a clear plastic film on a handset, that way if you don’t have a screen protector you could use the phone without exposing the screen.  Fortunately I had ordered a Orzly 0.22mm tempered glass protective screen from Amazon (NOTE:  the price of these has gone up at least twice since I bought mine, so Amazon may not be the best place to order one).  I also had gotten a Qi charging receiver pad and a Cruzerlite TPU case so I went ahead and put those on the One as well.  I will say like all the previous Cruzerlite cases I’ve purchased, this one is very well made (though apparently the popularity has somewhat increased their pricing).

It’s worth noting here that the One does not have Qi charging capabilities built in (why it doesn’t is a mystery — normally I would not have purchased a phone without wireless charging, and I would greatly encourage OnePlus to add that feature to the next model).

The phone came out of the box with about a 30% charge, so enough to go ahead and start setting it up (but not enough to do encryption on it — so that would have to wait for a full charge).

My first impression of handling the phone and using the older version of Android (yes, we’ll have to wait for Lollipop) was favorable — but honestly while I didn’t think Android 5 was that big of a change, going back underscores how nice the nuances are.

One thing I’m not sure of is why the One includes buttons below the screen… it does give you the option of disabling those and only have soft buttons on the screen.  The phone is new enough to have been designed with the revised guidelines, and the hardware for the buttons is a waste (perhaps that would have been a sufficient saving to have wireless charging).

I let the phone charge while I looked over what OnePlus had included.

OnePlus ships both a micro and a nano SIM tray with the One (they’re plastic, but appear well made).  That’s a nice touch because it allows you to use either size SIM (I really wish both my N4 and N5 had a nano tray — and yes I know about adapters, I have some).  Under the tray in the phone box is a SIM tray eject tool (a rather fancy one for something most people use exactly once; and a red charging/sync cable that’s a little over the top – maybe a cost saving here could have paid for the Qi charging capability.

The charger appear well made, but it’s white whereas the high end handset is black, so with the black, red, and white the aesthetics are a little questionable.

The phone charged fairly quickly (considering how much it was downloading and installing from Google Play), and there was an OTA update for it as well.

The camera, both front facing and rear facing with the rear facing camera doing a resolution of 3120×4208 pixels.  Impressive specs, but even more impressive images.  I personally don’t care for point and shoot cameras (give me a [D]SLR anytime), but if you’re going to snap a quick shot with your phone, you might as well get the best image quality possible.

The One had good voice quality on both a cellular and a wifi call, the speakers seem well and their location on the bottom of the phone give reasonably good sound when it’s laying on a desk.

The battery seems to last well, and unlike some others I didn’t experience any issues with overheating when I charged the One, the back gets no warmer than my N5.

The handset is snappy — of course one would expect that from the specs; the screen is clear and crisp.

Overall the phone is a very good value; with the 16GB model running $299 and the 64GB model running $349 (by the way, since there’s no uSD slot, the decision is clearly buy the 64GB model) it’s a hard mark to beat.  One of the catches is that you need an invitation to buy one — or you buy it on Tuesdays (OnePlus has started opening up purchasing for anyone on Tuesday, there’s no indication of how long this will last).

With so many positive things to say about the One it’s probably sounds a little anticlimactic to even mention the minor cons.

First and foremost, I think the handset is too big for men to carry in their pocket; that is of course a personal preference, and given the large number of handsets this size most people don’t seem to share my view.

There is absolutely no reason for a handset targeting these features to not have Qi wireless charging.  Yes you can add a Qi charging receiver to it, but that means you need to keep it in a case and you lose the use of the uUSB port.

There are a few pieces of bloatware in the ROM, and there’s absolutely no reason for them to be there.  Google has proven with the Nexus series that clean / lean ROMs are what enthusiasts like, and most everyone who would buy a phone like this is more than capable of downloading and installing an app.  Further, if you feel the phone needs an app — why bind it into the ROM, just pre-load it as an app and allow it to be removed.  NOTE:  OnePlus is shifting away from Cyanogenmod to their own custom ROM, so this may or may not continue to be an issue.  Along with this is the lack of Android 5 – Lollipop.  This handset desperately needs an update to be the flagship it has the potential of.

The bottom line, if you want a new handset (or need one), and $349 (plus $14.95 shipping) isn’t a problem for you… buy it.  You will need to use PayPal, and if you have descent credit there’s a 6-month no payment / no interest plus $10 credit deal from PayPal (Bill-Me-Later) as well…

 


 

Specs from GSMArena.com

GSMArena.com (with edits)

Network Technology GSM / HSPA / LTE
Launch Announced 2014, April
Status Available. Released 2014, June
Body Dimensions 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm (6.02 x 2.99 x 0.35 in)
Weight 162 g (5.71 oz)
SIM Micro-SIM or Nano-SIM
Display Type LTPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 5.5 inches (~71.9% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 1080 x 1920 pixels (~401 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes, up to 10 fingers
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
– CyanogenMod 11S
Platform OS Android OS, v4.4.2 (KitKat), upgradable to v4.4.4 (KitKat)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801
CPU Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
Memory Card slot No
Internal 16GB or 64 GB, 3 GB RAM
Camera Primary 13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, HDR
Video 2160p@30fps, 2160p(DCI)@24fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps, HDR, stereo sound rec.
Secondary 5 MP, 1080p@30fps
Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes, dual mono speakers
3.5mm jack Yes
Comms WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot
Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS
NFC Yes
Radio No
USB microUSB v2.0, USB Host
Features Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
Browser HTML5
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
– ANT+ support
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP4/H.264/WMV player
– MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV/FLAC player
– Document viewer
– Photo viewer/editor
– Voice memo/dial/commands
Battery Non-removable Li-Po 3100 mAh battery
Stand-by
Talk time
Misc Colors Silk White 16GB, Sandstone Black 64GB
SAR US 0.62 W/kg (head)     0.75 W/kg (body)
Price $299 16GB, $349 64GB

 

Specifications from OnePlus.net

OnePlus.net

Basic Parameters

Color Silk White/Sandstone Black
Dimensions 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
Weight 5.71 ounces (162 g)
Operating System Cyanogen 11S based on Android 4.4
CPU Qualcomm© Snapdragon™ 801 processor with 2.5GHz Quad-core CPUs
GPU Adreno 330, 578MHz
RAM 3 GB LP-DDR3, 1866MHz
Storage 16/64 GB eMMC 5.0, available capacity varies
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity and Ambient Light
Battery Embedded rechargeable 3100 mAh LiPo battery
Max. SAR Head: 0.270 W/kg, Body: 0.540 W/kg

Connectivity

Connectivity
  • GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz
  • WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/8
  • LTE: Bands: 1/3/4/7/17/38/40
Wi-Fi Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
NFC 65T (software card emulation, payment methods and multi-tag support)
Positioning Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS
Digital Compass

Ports, Slots, Buttons and Indicators

Ports Data & Charging: Micro USB 2.0
Audio: Jack 3.5mm
Buttons Power Button
Volume Rockers
Capacitive / On-screen buttons
SIM 1 slot – Micro SIM
Indicators 1 LED notification light (multicolored)

In The Box

1x OnePlus One
1x USB Cable
1x SIM Tray Ejection Tool
1x Additional SIM Tray (Nano SIM)

Fuel Rewards Network

A great way to save a little money when purchasing gasoline is to sign up for the Fuel Rewards Network… you’ll get at least $0.03 off per gallon at participating gas stations, and you can get more discounts just buy taking advantage of their partners (grocery stores, promotions, etc)… and you need to spend an extra penny to get the savings and you can still use your credit card to get cash back at the pump!

If you use the following link to join FRN, I’ll get a small bonus:

Refer-a-friend

OneDrive

Formally called Microsoft SkyDrive, you can use this link to setup an account and you’ll get a bonus 1/2 GB of storage…

SkyDrive works fairly well from Windows, OS-X, and Android (plus works well with CloudFogger — which I highly recommend).

One Drive Referral

2013 Flu Shot

This Flu-Shot coupon made the cost of a flu shot at Target only $5.00, plus it counts towards pharmacy rewards.  So if you’re like me and your insurance no longer pays for flu shots this is a great way to make it affordable.

 The coupon can be used at other pharmacies, and their prices may be higher or lower — you can check on that, but $5.00 was low enough I didn’t care to wait.

Remember, the sooner you get your flu shot the sooner it takes effect.

 

2013 Flu Shot Discount Coupon (pdf)

Straight talk about cellular service

I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer for a very very long time, and except for a short flirtation with MetroPCS (or as it’s often called — GettoPCS) I’ve been reasonably loyal.

But that’s about to change.

This week my Google/LG Nexus 4 arrived as well did an AT&T SIM card (through Straight Talk available on-line or at Wal-Mart).

I have an old Verizon plan, unlimited for a reasonable price (roughly $82 with tax after my 20% discount through a previous employer); and I had a Google/Samsung Galaxy Nexus S2, so I enjoyed LTE (in areas where Verizon had LTE service).

With Straight Talk, I’ll get unlimited AT&T services (MVNOs don’t generally have access to LTE) for $45 per month plus tax; but wait, until 18-Feb-2013 Straight Talk is offering a $2.50 reduction on your monthly service if you sign up for auto-pay (if you currently have Straight Talk with auto-pay, cancel your auto-pay and immediate set it back up to take advantage of the discount). Note, the $2.50 discount does not apply to your initial service payment, that’s going to be $45.00 plus taxes even if you immediately sign up for auto-pay.

I activated the SIM (you don’t actually even need a phone to activate a SIM card, you use a “serial number” they provide with the SIM card to register everything, then just pop it in the phone) on Thursday morning (yesterday), didn’t want to do it Wednesday night after returning from Mardi Gras (even though the phone and the SIM were laying on the front porch — sleep was more important).

And voila, it works — and it works well.

Straight Talk actually offers service on all four major networks: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

For AT&T or T-Mobile you simply need an unlocked GSM phone and the SIM for the network you would like service on (purchased through Straight Talk / Walmart). Or you can just purchase a handset with a SIM installed directly from Straight Talk / Walmart. Note, if you go with an unlocked GSM phone, there will be a couple settings you’ll have to change on the handset to have full function with the network; but those are well documented online.

For Verizon or Sprint you must purchase a handset from Straight Talk / Walmart that works on the network you choose. You can purchase a used Straight Talk handset on Craigslist or eBay, but remember that if it’s marked as stolen or lost, you might not be able to activate it.

And… the cost of the service is the same, regardless of what network you’re on, and the service is unlimited (keep in mind unlimited in cellular speak doesn’t mean what it does in the rest of the English language, if you use abusive amounts of service you’re likely to get throttled or terminated).

Now what’s the catch — well… you deal with Straight Talk customer service rather than the network’s customer service (let’s face it — they’re all horrible, and hopefully you’ll never need to deal with them at all); you don’t have access to partner or roaming, only the network you actually have service with (which really doesn’t matter generally unless you travel to fringe areas — and if that’s the case, stick with what works); you don’t have a contract (oh, wait, that’s not a catch); you own your handset outright (though Straight Talk does offer insurance on handsets they sell; or you can do what I do and pay for the service with a credit card that provides some level of cellular handset insurance coverage free).

And yeah I hear all of you — what about the iPhone… well, Straight Talk will sell you one (and Walmart has 0% financing so you can spread out the payments over a year), or if you’re going with AT&T or T-Mobile service you can just purchase a GSM handset from the Apple store or buy one used.

I’ve actually been considering switching for about a year; originally I was fixated on going with Verizon service since it was the only carrier I trusted, but times change. AT&T has been busy building out it’s network and increasing coverage, Verizon has been busy reinforcing the fact that they don’t care about their customers and re-tuning their towers to support LTE data services (and apparently forgetting that some people still want to make voice calls).

Now your mileage may vary, and the downside of choosing Verizon or Sprint is that you’re stuck with the selection of handsets offered by Straight Talk (which isn’t the latest and greatest — other than the iPhone 5); with AT&T or T-Mobile you can choose any handset (by just getting the SIM).

I don’t think this is the end of traditional wireless carriers, after all, Straight Talk depends on them for the actual service, but pre-paid unlimited plans like this truly seem to be the most economical way to have cellular service; and you don’t have to miss out on the latest and greatest equipment (with GSM service), all you have to do is front load the cost by buying the handset outright.

My guess is with more consumers buying handsets outright, the price of handsets will actually moderate closer to what they really cost, and not carry a surcharge to support the deep discounts the manufacturers give to cellular carriers to woo them to offer their handset.

http://straighttalk.com/

Polaroid PMID702c 7″ Android 4.0/ICS Tablet

I received the sale paper (like other Buzz Club members) early Saturday morning, and it had what looked like an interesting tablet.  I did some internet searches and read up on it and it seemed like it was well worth trying out — it appeared to be a much better buy than the Nextbook 7P S (resistive screen) 7″ table BigLots had on sale a couple weeks ago (that I tried on of, but quickly returned — and didn’t bother to write a review).

So I bought one of the tablets to play with at the sale price of $89.99 (normally $99.99) — it worked very well, I had no issue loading up Google Market and Google Apps (all of them aren’t working perfectly — but I think with a little effort that can be resolved)… so I picked up four of them this morning (all black — they had white ones but I figured that got dirty too easily) and four of the case/screen protectors at 20% off (I used a Buzz Club reward certificate I had) — $72.00 + $8.00 + $5.20 (6.5%) sales tax — so $85.20 for the tablet and “starter kit”.

The tablet has a capacitive screen, front facing camera only (like the Vizio VTAB1008s I have), uses a mini-USB for data and charging (in fact, I’m using one of my smart phone power adapters to charge it — it comes with a USB cable + charger as well), single core 1GHz processor running Android 4.0 ICS… and like the Nextbook they didn’t want to pay the Google licensing fee so it wasn’t much of an Android experience out of the box.  Unlike the Nextbook, it’s capacitive (not resistive — yes I already said that I’m just making sure you get the point), so the screen works with modest pressure, and the tablet comes rooted (which means you can install anything on it — not that it couldn’t be fairly easily rooted).

This tablet doesn’t have GPS or Bluetooth (those parts would have cost a couple dollars), nor does it have a rear facing camera (yes, I said already said it only has a front facing camera).

No problem with the SanDisk 32GB (Class 4) uSD card I put in it — worked just fine.  Though there’s no cover on the uSD card slot, it’s slightly recessed so there shouldn’t be much risk of the card being accidently ejected.

The tablet actually had a link for Amazon market — and all the Amazon apps work perfectly.

I installed the Google Market (and framework) plus got YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Calendar, Books, Drive/Docs, Music working — Talk and Chrome are having problems (so I’ll have to figure that out — though Chrome should be getting an update soon, so that might resolve itself).

Unfortunately, there’s no Clockwork Recovery for this tablet (yet) — of course there’s no custom ROMs for this tablet yet either.

Interestingly enough, this tablet didn’t have any issue with playing streaming music (like the Nextbook did). Though it only has a single speaker, so unless you put in head phone (which it has a standard 3.5mm  jack on the side with the uSD card slot mini-USB port, volume controls, and power button — and worked perfectly) it’s not really practical for music.  And a 7″ tablet is a little big to carry with you as an MP3 player — particularly when it doesn’t have Bluetooth so you can keep it in your bag).

The tablet isn’t a speed demon, but the screen is much more responsive than the Nextbook so it feels faster; and the 7″ size is very easy to hold in one hand.

I’m going to probably keep two of these to play with — I have some projects and I specifically wanted a low end tablet (though I really wanted on with a rear camera; but I can survive without it) and I have 30 days to return these.

I think the reason that BigLots has these is that the PMID703c was just released not long ago (Target had those in stock — but their web site indicates they are sold out at the moment)… pretty much identical specs — and the hardware in these are actually used on a fairly wide range of tablets (from what I’ve read the Allwinner A-10 uses the same hardware as do others) — I think the difference in the two models is the PMID703c shipped with ICS/4.0; the PMID702c was actually upgraded to ICS/4.0… so there was probably confusion in the channel about what people were getting causing lots of returns).

Anyway, I’ll do another posting with HOW-TOs about installing GAPPs and any tricks I figure out… but the bottom line, if you’re looking for a low end 7″ tablet, this is a good buy; but remember, there should be much better performing tablets out in a few months with dual core (or perhaps quad core) processors competing with the Kindle Fire in price (the Google tablet should be out soon).

NOTE:

Several people on the forums have had an issue figuring out how to get into recovery — I think the way you do it just hold down the “home” button when you power on the device (or use the reset button).

PMID702c User Guide (PDF) The same as the PMID703c user guide.

Product Features:

7″ Capacitive, multi-touch display
Connect to the internet wirelessly (Wi-Fi)
Web browsing & e-mail
Watch videos
Wirelessly download apps and eBooks
Supports games
Store and play music, videos and pictures
Built-in speaker
4GB internal memory
Micro SD card slot (for additional memory)
Video out jack
Rechargeable Li-ion battery

Specifications:

Operating System: Android™ 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Processor: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8
Graphics Accelerator: OpenGL ES 2.0 (3D game support)
Screen Resolution 800 x 480 (16:9)
Internal Memory: 4GB
External Memory: Micro SD
Networking: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Battery: Rechargeable Li-ion Polymer

Package Includes:

7″ Internet Tablet
USB Cable
AC Charger
User Manual
SKU: 810010443

Google Music

Back on the 17th of November Google announced the generally availability of Google Music…

We’re excited to announce that Music Beta by Google is officially graduating from beta today! Google Music will remain a free service, and you can continue to store up to 20,000 songs in your personal music library.

As well as an updated terms of service, and a music store (that works via Android Market).

The terms of service clarifies that each individual uploads and maintains his individual copy of a music file (unlike Apple’s service which may well substitute your copy with one from the iTunes store).

And while I think Google Music is a great value (it’s free), I think it might still be a little buggy…

My music library has in excess of 30,000 MP3 files, and while I understand that Google will not upload all of them, and that I might not be able to control exactly which 20,000 songs they upload (without creating a copy of the songs I have in a separate directory structure) I’m at a loss as to why I only have 19,088 from my collection uploaded — and the error I see in the load is “too many files in account”…

While I wouldn’t be shocked if I got 19,999 songs uploaded, it seem to me that there’s definit

Black Friday Sales

For several weeks now the Black Friday sales have been being leaked — but unlike many years in the past, the leaks have been official press releases this year.

The retailers understand how bad the economy is — and they know that the first one that get’s the money from you is the only one that will get the money from you.

I do not personally endorse any of these sites — and caution you to use your good judgment when browsing these sites.

http://www.blackfriday.info/
http://www.black-friday.net/
http://www.theblackfriday.com/
http://www.blackfriday2010.com/

Working the Chase / Amazon VISA

Right now Amazon has a promotion going that they’ll give you a 5% bonus for gift card purchases with an Amazon VISA card… so that ends up being 8% total (since you normally get 3%).

In fact, you might want to consider Amazon gift cards for routine purchases — particularly when you’re buying from an Amazon merchant…

Why?

Well, the Chase /Amazon VISA give you 3% cash back when you purchase items from Amazon; but only 1% when you purchase elsewhere (including Amazon merchants); so to get around this, buy a gift card for the exact amount you’re amount to spend at a merchant (just go ahead and get to the check out screen asking for payment — you can add a gift card there); then open another browser windows and purchase a gift card (for electronic/email) delivery for the exact amount… then apply the gift card number at the checkout and you’re done.

The first time you send a gift card to an email address you’ll have to re-enter your Amazon VISA credit card number (for security), and it seems like it always takes longer than it should to send the email — alternately you can select the option to print a gift card and simply take the gift card coupon number from that.

The 5% bonus program only lasts until the end of this month, and it’s limited to $2000 purchase / $100 bonus — but even after that expires you can still use the gift card purchase trick to get your 3% on your Amazon VISA.

One caveat — if you return an item, you’re going to get a gift card credit; that’s not a big deal of you’re a frequent Amazon shopper (the check out will always apply gift cards by default).

There is no reason to use a gift card for an Amazon purchase after the 5% bonus program is over (or you max out your bonus).

It’s free money… and doesn’t require much extra work to get it.

Amazon Cuts Price of WD TV Live Plus

Amazon has reduced the price of the WD TV Live Plus Network Media Player to $99.99 (ships free)… the old price ($119.99) was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to me recommending this as a solution for watching media on your TV… now with the price exactly the same as the Apple TV and more in line with similar Roku devices — I’m going to give the WD TV Live Plus a BUY recommendation (make sure you get the WD TV Live Plus, the other models aren’t as capable).

You can read my earlier remarks titled WD TV Live Plus – Network Media Player.

WD TV Live Plus on Amazon