Mr Aberthon https://mraberthon.com The Hotspot & Phone Professional Wed, 17 Oct 2018 21:47:37 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Samsung Galaxy S6 Review https://mraberthon.com/samsung-galaxy-s6-review/ https://mraberthon.com/samsung-galaxy-s6-review/#respond Sun, 07 Oct 2018 18:31:29 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13738 Thinking of Samsung Galaxy devices usually insinuate really high costs. Yet this amazing Samsung Galaxy S6 is now in a very reasonable price range, making it a great buy. That is true even with the few little quirks it may have, as is seen with every other device as well.

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Any smartphone which professes to be a flagship model needs to be good. When it comes from the undisputed kings of smartphone makers, it needs to be really good.

The Galaxy S range, from Samsung is, as a rule, consistently among the best selling smartphones every time there is a new release. Samsung use it to show new technology and new ideas, and they spend a small fortune advertising the fact. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually as good as it should be.

To see, we ran it past our own team of experts here at Mr Aberthon. They came up with a class leading score of 4.3/5.

Galaxy S6 Scores

Samsung Galaxy S6 being shown in upright position

Using a custom set of scoring criteria, our experts came up with the following scores:

  • Price (4.5/5)
  • Phone design (4/5)
  • Hardware and Camera (4.5/5)
  • Internal Software(4/5)
  • Overall Performance (4.5/5)

The general feeling was that the Galaxy S6 is an outstanding smartphone worthy of its flagship status. It isn’t without flaws, but they number fewer than most other smartphones at this level.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 will suit just about anybody who is looking for the maximum performance return from a smartphone. The price probably puts it out of reach of casual phone users, but heavy users will easily get their money’s worth from the Galaxy S6. It looks good, performs very well, and is backed by the biggest smartphone maker on the planet. That means custom apps and accessories, all at your fingertips.

Pricing of the Galaxy S6

Two samsung galaxy devices being compared

The Galaxy S6, despite now being a couple of years old, is still a very capable smartphone. At the time of release, it was a significant chunk of cash for anyone to spend, costing $850. Although this sounds reasonable today, against the $1000 flagships we now see, it was a lot for the time. Samsung actually recognized this, and soon dropped the price by $100.

Of course, as time has passed, the price has dropped further. At Mr Aberthon, you can buy a brand new, unlocked, Galaxy S6 for just $299. This is an excellent price for what is still an excellent smartphone which is still selling at the $400 mark.

Generally, any Samsung Galaxy S model holds its price pretty well, so to see the S6 available at barely 1/3 the original retail price is good news.

Galaxy S6 Competitors

Samsung Galaxy S6 Taking an image of a brick wall

The immediate competition for any Galaxy S release will be the iPhone. As such, the main competition came from the iPhone 6. The Galaxy S6 pretty much beat the iPhone 6 hands down on almost every aspect. Whilst Apple had been standing still for too long, Samsung had forged ahead. The display was better than the iPhone, the cameras were tons better, and the overall performance was just superior in every way. It is telling that Apple didn’t release a major upgrade iPhone for two years. Only the iPhone 6S made an appearance in the two years from the iPhone 6 to iPhone 7. As good as the iPhone 6S was, it wasn’t enough of a leap from the standard 6 to keep up with Samsung.

Other manufacturers also had to rush to keep up. Both Sony and LG, often prime innovators made a bit of a mess of the next 2 years playing catch up with Samsung. Both have finally returned to form in 2018 with excellent flagship models in the Xperia XZ2 and G7 ThinQ, respectively. It’s also noticeable that both Sony and LG have pushed the design envelope considerably, in an effort to be different.

In case you hadn’t seen, Nokia are back in the race too. We don’t see much of Nokia in the US, but they are still a well loved brand across Europe, Africa and the middle east. Sales in those regions allow the company to fund promotion in the US, so expect a real push in the next year or two. Huawei and Xiaomi are also making a massive dent in Samsung sales. The Chinese manufacturers have made huge strides in market share in the last 3 years. All those brands have smartphones which can now compete with the Galaxy S6.

Galaxy S6 Design

Samsung Galaxy S6 Camera being displayed while lying on a backpack

The Galaxy S4 and S5 were something of a design nightmare for Samsung, For reasons known only to them, they went with an all plastic body. For many, this meant that the feel of those models was far from flagship standard. Thankfully, the S6 has a glass front and back, with a metal rim to take the edge of any potential damage risk. It looks great, and feels great in the hand, too.

All the buttons have been repositioned slightly, to make them more intuitive, and the home button now feels really solid. A stark contrast to the home button of the S5, which felt like it would break every time you pressed it.

The headphone jack is on the bottom edge, which always seems a little odd to us. Most users will also tell you that they prefer it on the top of the phone.

Unfortunately, in their obsession with thin phone design, Samsung have made a critical design error on the Galaxy S6. The ultra-thin profile means that the camera unit protrudes out from the back of the case in a prominent bump. This means it never lies flat, and you have to wonder what damage is done to the camera every time you lay it down.

Overall, the design is good, and the Galaxy S6 does look great, but it’s far from perfect.

Hardware Highlights and Specs

Samsung Galaxy S6 being logged on using a fingerprint scanner on home button

For years, manufacturers have been in a fierce battle to equip their phones with the best cameras available in a smartphone. Samsung haven’t always won that fight, but the Galaxy S6 cameras at least show that Samsung can do it when it needs to. The 16MP rear camera is outstanding, and is a match for anything available elsewhere. 4K recording and slow-motion are included and work perfectly. The front 5MP is a little less impressive. That’s not to say it’s a poor camera, it isn’t. It just gets exposed a little by the quality of the rear camera. It does, though, allow dual-camera video calling and recording.

Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays take some beating, and the Galaxy S6 is up there with the best. With a 2K pixel count (which is 4x HD), and colors which just leap off the screen, it’s a pleasure to watch movies on.

A welcome addition to the Galaxy S6 arsenal is a decent fingerprint scanner. Just when you though Samsung were never going to match Apple’s scanner, they actually go and better it. It is easy to set up and, in our experts experience, flawless in operation. Hone is the “swipe” method of the S5, to be replaced with a single touch sensor. Finally, Apple don’t have bragging rights on fingerprints.

Size

5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 in

Weight

4.78 oz

Storage

32GB

Micro SD Card Slot

No
Display Size

5.1”

Display Resolution

1440 x 2560 px
Cameras

16MP/5MP

Fingerprint Sensor

Yes
Fast Charging

Yes

Battery

2550mAh (17hrs Talk Time)

Conclusion

Samsung Galaxy S6 lying on a table near a plant, a watch and a camera lens

Smartphones, generally, don’t age particularly well. technology moves so fast that many feel dated even before they launch. It’s testament to the quality of the Galaxy S6 that it is still a competitor against even the newest smartphones. If you don’t want to pay $800+ for a new phone, get the Galaxy S6 for $299, and you won’t even feel like you’re missing out.

There are quirks and annoyances, like the protruding rear camera, lack of Micro SD card slot and slightly disappointing battery life, but the Galaxy S6 is one of our highest rated smartphones. You might find better, and you might find cheaper, but you won’t find better at this price.

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The Lifespan of a Smartphone https://mraberthon.com/the-lifespan-of-a-smartphone/ https://mraberthon.com/the-lifespan-of-a-smartphone/#respond Wed, 18 Jul 2018 16:00:08 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=12717 Does your smartphone last as long as you wished it did? Here we share some valuable advice on this very topic; the lifespan of a smartphone. Using these guidelines, you should be able to guess how long the device will last you, even before you buy it.

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Smartphones are part of the fashion industry nowadays. Designs come thick and fast and manufacturers try to make them ever more appealing. The problems come later down the line, when your smartphone no longer fits the bill for being current.

Smartphones actually have a reasonable shelf life from a hardware point of view. The issue is when manufacturers stop pushing software updates out to models just a couple of years old. Apple got caught with their fingers in the register when it emerged that they were deliberately slowing older models down. They say it was to preserve battery life, everyone else says it was to force customers to upgrade.

But, as long as manufacturers are reasonably consistent with how they implement the update policy, it is at least a level playing field. Then, it comes down to the hardware. Is it good enough to keep up with app demands? Or good enough to prevent frustration with seemingly increasingly slow responsiveness? All valid question, but are there any valid answers?

Smartphone Software

Although we all use apps every day, the core of any phone is the operating system. Currently, we are at iOS 11.3 and Android 8.1. Actually, Apple will tell you we’re simply at iOS 11, because they consider sub-versions to be minor fixes. Google do it a little differently, and issue security and minor updates separately and on a monthly basis with the month being the name of the update. In Android, 8.1 was quite a major update over 8.0, so you will always see the sub-version of the latest release.

Android Operating Systems

Generally speaking Apple will push new major versions of iOS to the current and 2 previous iPhone models. Effectively, this means that any phone older than 3 years will no longer get major updates. Security updates will still be available for iPhones running older versions, but that’s it. With Android, each manufacturer is free to establish their own update path. Most follow the same path of 2/3 generations before they stop issuing major updates. The monthly minor and security updates remain available for much longer.

Manufacturers of Android smartphones also often add their own skin on top of the base Google Android version, sometimes including their own suite of apps. This can mean delays in getting the update out to users.

Once you stop getting major updates, it doesn’t mean that your phone will stop working. It just means that any new features introduced in new versions of the OS will not be available. To most people, this isn’t really an issue. The vast majority of smartphone owners probably couldn’t even tell you what version they have of their respective OS. It is only the nerds amongst us who really want the latest and greatest. Everybody else is usually happy with what they have until something breaks.

Apps

App versions isn’t such a big deal in most cases. Some developers, though, will always insist on using every byte of memory and every cycle of the processor for their apps. This is in spite of knowing that they may be ruling out users of older models from running the new version. Thankfully, more and more app developers are starting to see that this approach doesn’t really serve anybody’s best interest. It is becoming more and more unusual for apps to stop working on older phones, especially the big social media giant’s apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

One area where it may be an issue is with gaming. If a new game is particularly processor-heavy, it may just be a fact that older phones just might not have the necessary power to run them. It’s the same with hi-res video. More and more smartphones are recording 4K video today. Even though few have a 4K display, they still need to be able to keep up with the higher resolution of the original video. Again, this might be a problem for older smartphones.

Smartphone laying down with soical media icons above it

Smartphone Hardware

As we’ve touched on above, the hardware limits of older phones might put some pressure on what they can handle from a graphical standpoint. Processors advance more rapidly than just about any other component of a smartphone. Not so long ago we were all running single-core CPUs. Now, quad-core and higher is the norm,. This means 4 times the amount of data can be processed at once, than is possible with a single core. It doesn’t take a math genius to work out what a difference that can make.

Cameras, although getting better overall, haven’t been quite such a big advancement. Flagship phones now have two lenses to improve control and quality, but many single lens cameras produce stunning images.

Displays are always a massive selling point for smartphone manufacturers. The more pixels, the harder the sell. In truth, although it does make a difference, the software of the OS will often be a huge influence on the quality of an on-screen image. Smartphone screens, with their relatively small size, make it difficult to distinguish quality levels unless the resolution is massively different.

How To Know The Lifespan of  a Smartphone?

If you take into account what we’ve said above, especially on the OS version and the number of cores in the processor, you will have an idea of how long your phone may last before starting to look creaky. Dual-core is still feasible – just. Quad-core is now very common and 8-core on flagship models. Generally, if you look at quad-core, there are some bargains to be had. If you can get a phone that is still within the update cycle for the OS, that’s great. But you will find massive price reductions when any phone reaches its perceived “end of life”. Because prices get so low, it makes it easier to choose a device and then upgrade in a couple of years.

Average Lifespan of mobile devices on a graph

We guarantee that nobody will know you have an older device unless you tell them.

Check reviews. Often, the best review sites will go back and update their own reviews. This tends to happen if there have been big downwards shifts in the pricing. What might have got 3 stars before may well now get 4 or 5 stars at the lower price.

Look for owner forums online. Have a look at the rate of the posting of new threads on the subject. If a forum for a particular device used to be very busy but now has no activity, it might be an indication that the phone hasn’t aged well. Alternatively, flick through some of the reviews on Amazon from “Verified Buyers”. These are often the only way to be sure it’s not competitors or otherwise disgruntled users merely trolling.

Outliving The Warranty

A 12 month Warranty isn’t really an indicator of how long a smartphone should last. The warranty lasts that long because people expect it. Look for reports of major bugs or critical issues, and whether they ever got fixed. If the fix isn’t made within a few weeks, it probably never will be. If the manufacturer doesn’t care about that, chances are the phone isn’t too well loved by anybody.

But there’s no reason why, with a little care, a smartphone should last for just as long as you need it to.

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The Future Of The Smartphone https://mraberthon.com/the-future-of-the-smartphone/ https://mraberthon.com/the-future-of-the-smartphone/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:00:12 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13043 Jump into the car or plane in the future and be elsewhere within seconds. It was in all of our dreams yet isn't quite the reality yet. So what will be of the smartphone era? Will it flip over once again into a completely different reality or do we presume it will only advance yet remain the same basis in the years to come? Read more to find out.

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Depending on who you talk to, the inventor of the telephone was either Italian, Scottish or American. As with many types of new technologies, several people were working on a telephone-type device at the same time. Without doubt, though, it was Alexander Graham Bell, the Scot, who secured the first ever patent on the idea.

That was nearly 150 years ago and, believe it or not, the principle of telephones and phone calls haven’t changed a whole lot. The components have changed, as new and better ones came into being. Still, though, it is a sequence of electrical impulses being turned on and off which is the root of any telephone call.

But, during those 150 years or so, the telephone has come a long way. Smartphones have seemingly relegated making calls to something that is almost incidental. But is the end of the smartphone era? Or will it outlive us all?

What Makes A Phone Smart?

I suppose, if you think about it, all phones are pretty clever. To take a voice at one end, convert it into something that can be transmitted, and then decode it at the other end is pretty cool. But, for our description of a smartphone, we need to look at what the humble telephone has become.

No longer is a phone just for making calls. Texts came along, then email, and eventually we arrived where we are today. Apps, social media, navigation systems, health monitors and more. All in a pocket sized device with about 1200 times the processing power of the Apollo 11 spacecraft that first put men on the moon.

All a smartphone does, though is utilize the improvements that have emerged in the last 30 years. From a copper wire phone network to a digital wireless network. From paper maps to GPS. All do the same things, but in ever more convenient ways.

Copper phone Wires in 5 colors

The Future Of The Smartphone?

Does the smartphone as we know it today even have a future? Despite only being around for 10 years in any viable commercial form, today’s devices aren’t much different to the original iPhone. More powerful, yes. Much better displays, yes. More available apps, yes. But that’s about it. Ignore recent non-essential additions like retina sensors and curved edge displays, and we’re really no farther on.

But, by the same token, we’re not really seeing anything that is ready to step in. Nothing that can take the place of a smartphone and move us into the technological future.

We do have the smartwatch. But is it really a step forward? It still needs the phone to be within Bluetooth or Wi-Fi distance to really be of any use. The display is too small to be much more than a notification screen and clock. They are also almost comically expensive. As an add-on device they may have some merit, but as a stand-alone? Not in their present guise.

So what is the future?

The Short Answer

As it were, it seems to be the logical choice. We’ll probably see “better” smartphones in the next few years, but not “different” smartphones. All the things we’ve seen improvements in, over the last few years, will get better. But we’re unlikely to see much in the way of mind-blowing innovation.

The Long Answer

It is likely that new technologies will complement smartphones, rather than replace them. Rollable and foldable displays which can be used to watch movies are one possibility. Another is seamless linking with other platforms. We already have casting to TV, but it’s often creaky, to say the least. Maybe one day we’ll be able to go the other way. Record movies and TV shows straight onto our phones, perhaps, or even have a TV tuner built right in, instead of relying on streaming services.

All, though, are merely enhancements, rather than the kind of features that are true game changes for the smartphone industry. We are starting to see folding tablets which will allow large devices to fold down to standard smartphone size. But, as with many things, it is proving more difficult to perfect than everyone hoped.

5 smartphones that uniquely fold and roll up

The Space 1999 Answer

We’ve had lots of TV shows depicting what the world would be like in the not-too-distant future. Usually, they focussed on the year 2000 or thereabouts. This was mainly because we’d gong from fighting a second world war to putting men on the moon in less than 25 years. Everyone just assumed that the rate of progress would be constant. Disappointingly, it proved to be overly-optimistic. Oh, to be zipping around in a flying car, or being able to teleport instead of spending hours in a car or on a bus. Alas, no.

If I had to choose a single technology to breakout into the mass market, it would be holographic displays. These would allow us to watch movies or play games in true 3D. To watch sports on a table top display as though we were there, or to be able to see things from different angles at will. Holographic displays aren’t actually new, they are just not where we need them to be for everyday purposes.

Let’s face it, 3D TV and movies as we know it is pretty much dead. There have been several attempts to make it work, but the need for extra equipment like glasses is just a real turn off for most people. The boffins at MIT reckon we already have all the technologies for practical holographic displays, but nobody’s figured out how to link them all yet.

When they do, who’s to say those Facetime calls can’t be in 3D, making voice calls obsolete at long last?

Anything is possible. Maybe.

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Law Enforcement, The Military and Personal Phones https://mraberthon.com/law-enforcement-the-military-and-personal-phones/ https://mraberthon.com/law-enforcement-the-military-and-personal-phones/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 04:00:24 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13049 Balancing personal safety and the public's safety, the officers of both the military and police departments must have mobile phone restrictions, right? Well, not quite as you think. We did our research into the topic and here are the results.

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For some people, their workday means no smartphone. Company rules means phones have to be locked away or simply not brought into the building at all. But not everybody has to do that, of course. Many of us are able to have our phones with us, and will get away with the odd bit of usage during the working day.

Out of all the jobs, in all the different types of industry, there’s no real hard and fast pattern to who can have and use a cell phone at work. But what if we said that law enforcement and the military both allow personal cell phone at work? Would it surprise you? It probably would.

Law Enforcement and Cell Phones

The policy of allowing the use of cell phones and, in some cases, the issuing of them, is very patchy. From state to state, and even county to county, there seems to be no joined up thinking about personal cell phone use. Some police departments actually issue phones to all employees, but put restrictions on their use. Others don’t have any kind of guidelines, and staff are free to use their own phone as they wish.

In fact, only 40% of departments who responded to a recent survey said they had a clear policy. Another 10% said they were considering implementing rules to cover cell phones, but hadn’t finalized details. Even those with a policy in place had wildly differing rules in place. Some forbid use entirely while on duty. Others will fund a few dollars a month on an officer’s contract to cover calls made under work conditions. Many of the rest say that they expect their officer to use them “responsibly”. Some also say that current employment policies already cover infractions with cell phones. Whatever that means.

Phrases such as “excessive use” or “use at inappropriate times” feature frequently, but are clearly subjective. This leaves officers open to a senior officer’s interpretation of what might be excessive or inappropriate. Such vague definitions don’t actually help anybody, and it is a surprise that the text used isn’t clearer with regards to limits and consequences.

Man in uniform, a sailor, on his mobile device

Security Implications

Police radio bands are notoriously easy to monitor. They are basically publicly available transmissions, just outside the frequency range of commercial radio. Even so, extended tuners cost just a few dollars which can easily pick up all police radio communication. A lot of the media use such things, in order to arrive at incidents as quickly as possible.

So why would using cell phones be an issue? They can’t be less secure than police radios, can they? In some ways they are more secure, in others not so much. Cell phones are only as secure as the info you store onto them. Two-way radios are very much “in the moment”. There’s no memory or phone book, or anything else which can affect the next call or the next day. Cell phones do have all those things. More to the point, we will all use them, even in a work-issued phone. If the phone is lost, the risk of exposure is huge.

Dedicated police cell networks are impractical on both a cost and time basis. In reality, there’s probably no good answer, other than police departments probably need to tighten up internal rules. A national policy is very unlikely, as not all crimes are federal, and each department sets its own rules for all manner of things. However, a consensus should be possible.

Lady being sworn in as officer

The Military and Cell Phones

If the loose regulation about cell phones in law enforcement surprised you, buckle up. There are, up to now, no restrictions on cell phone use by most military personnel. Even for those on active duty assignments, however sensitive, carrying cellphones is allowed. They are intended for use as backup communications if radio systems fail, but there are other considerations. There are reports of US soldiers being killed in action, and enemy fighters using captured cellphones to text the soldier’s loved ones with gruesome details of his death. Some even included pictures of the body.

During basic training, there are no limits to soldiers having and using cell phones. After that, it becomes the responsibility of commanding officers as to the possession of cell phones at any given time. The Department of Defence are currently looking at how they can apply a blanket ban on all pentagon employees having any mobile device when entering the complex. The idea is to improve current security levels. Once applied, the DoD have not ruled out a complete ban on all military personnel having cell phones with them on a posting.

The military provide secure satellite and internet connections for soldier to connect with families when on active duty. These, though, are often slow and subject to regular outages. Such facilities will need to improve before implementing any new restrictions.

Otherwise, the rules are few and far between.

US Army Officers in WW1

Should We Be Concerned?

It’s a difficult question to answer. With the police, possibly not, given that individual police officers would need to be specifically targeted in order for the bad guy to get anything useful. The military though, is a much less controlled environment in terms of the taking of sides. It isn’t a case of avoiding capture for the enemy, it’s a case inflicting damage on US forces. Such angles to the conflict mean the risks of data or information falling into the wrong hands in greatly increased.

Balance that against the psychological boost of a soldier who’s life is at risk daily, being able to speak to his family, and the question becomes even more difficult.

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WhatsApp Secrets https://mraberthon.com/whatsapp-secrets/ https://mraberthon.com/whatsapp-secrets/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 16:00:28 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13061 Wonder no longer how to send yourself a Whatsapp message, or how to share your location with a loved one. It is all quite simple actually, you just need to know that it exists and how to do it. Of course, we are here to rescue the day, so why doing you join us in discovering more about the app you use daily.

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WhatsApp is  a great messaging app. It’s not the only one, of course, and many do just what WhatsApp can. The problem is that they don’t do it nearly so well.

But, apart from messages, photos and videos, how much do you really know about WhatsApp? Take a look at our list of the apps best kept secrets in WhatsApp, and be amazed.

Send Your Location

Lots of apps have the facility to transmit a location to someone, but they tend to be a little bit involved in how to actually achieve it. In WhatsApp, it’s as simple as sending a photo.

Just start a chat with a person or a group, and tap the Paperclip icon as though you were going to attach a picture. Among the things you can attach are photos, audio and documents. Also in there is Location. Tap the icon, and you have a list of locations you can add to the message.

Sending location via whatsapp

You can send any one of several nearby locations, or you can send your present location as determined by your phone’s GPS system. Simply tap “Send Your Current Location”, and send it as you would any message. The other person will receive your location as a map. If they click on it, the map loads in the Google Maps app.

Right at the top of the list, you will see a different option of “Share Live Location”. This is different to “Send Your Current Location” in one key aspect.  Sending your current location does just that. If you then move, you would need to re-send your location to update the other person. With “Share Live Location” you can set a length of time, from 15 minutes to 8 hours, during which your location on the map will update in real time.

This is very useful for tracking kids or if you’re just waiting for someone to arrive and are curious where they are. The location must be sent by the device user, and the location cannot be obtained secretly. It’s an incredibly useful feature that a lot of people don’t realize exists in WhatsApp. Once you know it’s there, you’ll use it regularly.

Blue Tick Snitching

When someone sends you a message, they see two blue ticks when you’ve read it. None of us have emails set up to automatically send read receipts, so why would we want WhatsApp to work that way? Occasionally, you may just want to read messages and reply at a later time. The problem is that the blue ticks have already told the  sender you’ve read the message. At that point, they will begin to wonder why you haven’t replied.

Showing which checks you'll see if a message is sent, delivered or read in whatsapp

Fortunately, WhatsApp have given us an option to turn off the ticks. from your main message list, tap the 3 dot menu icon in the top right, and go to Settings > Account > Privacy. In there, you will see a checkbox to turn the ticks on or off. There’s no half measures here. If you turn them off, you won’t receive them from other people either. The ticks will always show in Group Chats, however.

Mute Notifications By Chat

Group Chats, in particular, can get busy and the constant notification chimes can be irritating or inconvenient. You can, though, Mute any chat, whether individual or group. With the chat itself open, tap the 3 dot menu icon and tap “mute”. You will then have an option to mute notifications for that chat only for 8 hours, 1 week or 1 year.

Doing this doesn’t silence any other chat. If you want to mute all notifications from WhatsApp, this is done is Settings > Notifications from the front screen of the app.

Showing how to mute a chat in whatsapp

Scribble On Photos

Adding a photo to a message is easy, but did you know you can also draw on the photo before you send it? This is useful if you want to circle something, or add an hilarious caption. Memes on the go? It’s right here.

Use the paperclip icon to attach your photo but, before you hit the white arrow to send it, take a look at the 4 icons at the top. You can Crop or rotate the image, add a graphic which you can position by dragging and dropping it on the picture, Add text in any color you like or simply draw freehand. You can even add the time and location, if you like.

The Long Tap

Tap and hold any individual message in a chat, and it turns blue. At that point, you have several options that appear at the top of the screen. You can quote the message when you reply, you can forward it, you can delete it or you can bookmark it. Most of these are more useful in a busy group chat, but all are handy at various times.

If you tap the Star icon to bookmark a message, these can be read later from the main screen. Tap the 3 dot menu icon, and tap “Starred Messages”. Any you have bookmarked will be listed there.

3 screenshots of how to star a message in whatsapp

Styling Text

Although basic, you can make text bold, italic or strikethrough.

For bold, put the text between asterisks (*), for italic put it between underscores(_), for strikethrough, put it between tildes (~). It’s not exactly a word processor, but the bold and italic will both prove useful at some point.

Search Messages

Admit it, you’ve barely even registered that there’s a search icon at the top of your main chat list.

Tap it and you can search all your messages for any text you like. If you loved a message in a group chat but don’t fancy scrolling though thousands of other messages to find it, just hit the search.

Screenshot showing how to search for a message in whatsapp

Delete a Message

If you send a message and realize that you have something wrong, or that it is full of typos, don’t despair. Just long tap the message and you will have the option to delete it. Either you can delete it only for yourself, or Delete For Everyone.

You’ll need to be quick, though, you can only delete a message within 7 minutes of sending it.

Add Flash To A Selfie

Most front cameras on smartphones don’t have flash. Some camera apps mimic the flash by shining a bright white screen before releasing the shutter. Now, this is built right into WhatsApp. If you want to send a selfie in a chat but the room is dark, just hit the camera icon, make sure you’re on the front camera and make sure the flash icon at the bottom left doesn’t have a line through it. If it does, just tap it and the flash will be ready.

Unfortunately, you can’t use this just to take and store a selfie. If you hit the shutter button but don’t send the image in a message, it isn’t saved anywhere. But hold your horses, because we have the answer.

Message Yourself

At first glance, there’s no easy way to send yourself a message on WhatsApp. Even if you add yourself as a new phone contact, you don’t appear in the list of contacts in the app. You can install other apps which will provide a workaround, but more apps taking up precious space and you just don’t need to. Instead, use this surefire, 30 second way to do it, all within WhatsApp itself.

Screenshot showing how to start a whatsapp group

Set up a new group, give it a name and add 1 person. Save the group, tap the 3 dot menu icon, and choose “Group Info”. Scroll down a little, and you will see that the group has 2 participants, you and the other person you added. Simply tap the other person’s profile pic, and remove them from the group. This leaves just you in a private group, to which you can send messages, photos or anything else. It’s as good as any notes app, given you can record video, audio, locations and tons more.

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Flip Phone Over Smartphone https://mraberthon.com/flip-phone-over-smartphone/ https://mraberthon.com/flip-phone-over-smartphone/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 16:00:08 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13273 You've heard talks about all the advantages a smartphone has over a flip phone, yet have you ever thought that it may be the other way around? Flip phones are golden oldies, and it's definitely for a reason. Learn more about their advantages and why it may be worth your time and more to go this route.

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Smartphones are great, no question. They – and you – can do just about anything together. You can get places, watch movies, listen to music, play games. You can even check the weather, hold a video call with someone across the world or shoot an entire photo album.

Oh, and you can make phone calls and send texts. And therein lies the problem.

Too Much Is Not Enough

At least for some. The clamor for new features and ever better components has driven smartphone prices to the thousand dollar mark. One. Thousand. Dollars.

Why on earth would you pay that much to do stuff you wouldn’t miss if you didn’t do them? We managed for thousands of years without smartphones. Is your life really better for having one? Be honest.

Flip phones, though, do what they need to. What you need them to, more to the point. They make calls, they send texts. Most will even send and receive emails and take picture. What else do you need?

Drop It

Newborn feet being held by mothers hand

No, not the subject, your smartphone. See? You daren’t. You know that, if you do, you’ll have a heart-stopping moment as you realize you’re about to be blessed with a cell phone that has a smashed screen. Smartphones are, let’s face it, more fragile than a new born baby. And almost as expensive to run.

A flip phone, though, is much more robust. They aren’t indestructible, of course, but they will survive a great many more drops than a smartphone. The main screen is protected when the phone is closed, and the secondary display is small enough not to buckle under the slightest pressure.

That, alone, makes flip phones better than smartphones.

Take Your Time

They do. Smartphones, that is. How often do you look around and see people constantly checking their phones? Living in constant fear that they will miss a notification. Allowing their lives to be determined by Facebook likes or Twitter re-tweets. If it wasn’t so sad, it’d be hilarious. The average daily smartphone usage of people under 25 is now approaching 10 hours a day. That’s longer than a standard working day. Think about that for a minute. Is it any wonder we’re a nation built on insecurity? Our smartphones have stripped us of the ability to think for ourselves.

A flip phone, though, it just sits there and tells you actual things you need to know. Like has someone called or texted. Go to a family restaurant, and see how those families in there interact. If parents and 2 kids are sat there, all 4 will be on phones. And what phones will they all be studying intently? Yep, smartphones. The flip phone can never be blamed for the death of conversation. That’s all on Apple.

Lay Your  Money Down

Zoomed in and blurred Credit cards on a table

You want a flip phone, you can get pre-paid where $10 will last a month easily. You want a smartphone, better check those kidneys are fully functioning, because you’ll need to put it on eBay to afford the contract.

$50, which used to be a reasonable dinner for two, not so long ago, now might just buy you enough data to post pictures of the weather on Facebook for a month. I wonder how far away people have to be, before the networks see them coming? They do say there’s one born every minute, but do they have to be delivered straight to the Verizon Store?

Seriously, a smartphone is a significant investment. And an investment that will lose money from day 1, at that. Within 2 years, your shiny new, do-it-all whizzbang smartphone will be all but redundant. The guy at the next desk with a flip phone though? He’s be using his until the day he dies.

Classical antique clock in the sand near a map

The reason is simple. He just needs a phone. He doesn’t need his office in his pocket. And he certainly doesn’t need everyone from Google to Facebook selling his details to the highest paying Russians. You want privacy, don’t get a smartphone. You want huge corporations rifling through your contracts, your trips to the store, your photos? Because that’s what a smartphone brings.

With a flip phone, the only company who knows anything about you is the network you buy your airtime from. Apps may be a great idea, but their the most obvious spying tool around today.

Is That Enough For You?

If it isn’t, it should be. Smartphones are expensive to run, expensive to buy, and will provide every minute detail of your life to anybody who wants it. As long as you’re dumb enough to give it to them. Which you will be.

A flip phone does none of that. At the risk of sounding boring, it makes phone calls. It sends texts. Most importantly of all, of course, it maintains your privacy.

And if that’s really not enough for you, then all hope is lost.

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What To Do With An Old Smartphone https://mraberthon.com/what-to-do-with-an-old-smartphone/ https://mraberthon.com/what-to-do-with-an-old-smartphone/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 16:00:37 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13265 Throwing out an old smartphone is probably the most common thing to do, yet here at Mr Aberthon we suggest otherwise. Read up this long list of options that will really make a difference both to you and others.

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It’s something we’ve all experienced. We have  a smartphone for a few years, and then we decide it’s time for an upgrade. Once we have our new phone up and running, the same question arises. What should we do with our old one?

Before we get to some answers which may help. There’s one thing you shouldn’t do. Don’t, please throw it in the trash. There are many components within a smartphone which are harmful to both life and the environment. It used to be that the battery was the biggest issue, but that has changed. Batteries used to be made using lithium metal, a notoriously unstable and potentially explosive material. Now, lithium-ion is used, and is much safer and less harmful to the environment.

It isn’t perfect of course, and batteries do still use harmful toxins. Any chemical product which gets into the earth or into waterways can do harm, but the risk is greatly reduced from what it used to be. In fact, the biggest issue with lithium-ion batteries is that they are likely to explode when punctured. But smartphones and their batteries also contain mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and chlorine. Each of these can, if exposure is significant enough, case cancer, brain and cognitive defects, and even kill.

So, now you’ve decided not to just throw it out, what will you do with your old smartphone?

Recycle it

A swirl of books and papers from recycled old items

You have a few options here. You can give it to a recycling center who will recover whatever they can, and safely dispose of the rest. Or give it to a charity who will send it to 3rd world countries for it to be given to those who can’t afford a phone. Make it even easier, and give it to a friend or relative in need. Basically, find it a new home.

Use It As A Security Camera

Your smartphone can record video. But it can also simply relay the pictures to another device. There are several apps, free and paid, which will turn your old phone into an IP camera. The apps can include motion detection, automatic recording and more. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and permanent power.

Use It As An E-reader

Amazon, with their range of Kindles dominate the e-reader market, but they don’t come particularly cheap. There is, though, a Kindle app available. Think about using the app on your old phone, and turn it into an e-reader in seconds.

GPS Navigation

Smartphone being used as a GPS in a car

Google maps isn’t the only game in town. There are several apps which use downloaded maps and your GPS position to build routes without a data connection. You do need to sacrifice up to date traffic, of course, but it’s a small price to pay for what is, essentially, a free GPS.

Have A Clock For Your Nightstand

Speaking personally, I use my phone as both a clock and an alarm. If you buy a cheap dock off eBay, you can have a permanent clock by your bedside for a couple of dollars.

Extend Your Wifi

If you have some weak – or even dead – spots in your house, then your old smartphone can help. With Wi-Fi extender apps, your old phone can act as a relay by taking the Wi-Fi signal for the router and repeating it. The only issue is that it does require a rooted Android phone. If your phone is rooted, or you don’t mind getting a little down and dirty, why not give it a go?

Get Fit

There are now many apps and devices which help you to track fitness, weight etc. The problem is that using a thousand dollar iPhone X can make us all feel a little uneasy when out running or in the gym. Use you old phone as a dedicated fitness tracker. Get the right app, and a cheap fitness tracker, and you’re off and jogging.

A Free Trackpad

Trackpads don’t suit everyone, and many prefer a wireless mouse for use with a laptop. But, if it’s the position of the trackpad which you hate, use your old phone as a trackpad you can put anywhere.

Move Into VR

Girl bicycling past a farm fence using VR glasses

Virtual Reality has never really become the dominant force it was expected to be, but it is still pretty cool. Your old phone can easily be put into a VR headset and left there. Use it to do virtual tours, or to control a drone, or even to play VR games. The possibilities are almost endless.

Protect Yourself With A Dashcam

Much in the same way you can use the phone as a GPS system, you can also use it as a dashcam. There are many apps available which simulate the actions of a genuine dashcam. This even includes looping the recordings where, once the card is full, the oldest clips will be overwritten with newer ones.

Make Your Remote Control Universal

Assuming your smartphone has InfraRed (iPhones don’t, by the way), you can get apps which turn your phone into a universal remote control. You can then control almost ant IF device in your house. TV, heating system, AC and more can all be controlled with a single device.

Digital Photo Frame

A Pink photo in a frame near cactus plants, on a bed of rocks near green wall

Lots of people have digital photo frames these days, but the devices are usually pretty basic. Stick in a memory card and it will cycle through all the pictures indefinitely. Your old smartphone, though, may well have a better display, and more storage available. The right gallery-type app will also have more options available.

Help Medical and Scientific Research

Back in the 1990s, when the internet was just getting going, there were projects to which you could donate processor time from your PC. If the machine was idle, it would connect with a research center somewhere and contribute to the amount of processing power available to perform research. It was – and still is – a terrific way to contribute easily. You can do the same with your old smartphone. Get an app such as those provided by NASA, or the DreamLab app to aid cancer research, and let your old phone really help someone.

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Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Vs S8 Active https://mraberthon.com/samsung-galaxy-s7-active-vs-s8-active/ https://mraberthon.com/samsung-galaxy-s7-active-vs-s8-active/#respond Wed, 04 Jul 2018 16:00:35 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13250 Want a tough phone yet one that's chic and up to date, then the active series of Samsung Galaxy is the route to go. Yet which of these two phones should you pick, the S7 active or the S8 active?

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The Samsung Galaxy S range of smartphones is hard to ignore. As Samsung’s flagship smartphones, they are everywhere. No expense is spared in advertising them, and Samsung go to great lengths to make sure we all know what features they have.

But if we say Galaxy S Active, you’re likely to look puzzled. The “Active” part of the name refers to the way the devices have been made rugged to protect them from everyday knocks and bumps. Somehow, though, the entire range seems to fly under everybody’s radar. The devices are pretty much the same specs as their non-Active kin, so it’s interesting that Samsung choose to just let them find their own way.

Crater National Park at night with the galaxy in view in the sky

Here, we compare the S7 and S8 Active models. Both the standard S7 and S8 are still very popular, so we’ll take a look at which of the two is better for those who need a phone to be just that little bit tougher. Is the S8 Active worth the extra cost? Let’s see.

S7 Active

S8 Active

Size (in)

5.86 x 2.95 x 0.39

5.98 x 2.95 x 0.39

Weight (oz)

6.53 7.34

Display (in)

5.1

5.8

Resolution (px)

1440 x 2560 1440 x 2960

Rugged

IP68/MIL-STD 810G

IP68/MIL-STD 810G

Processor

Qualcomm 820 Qualcomm 835

Battery

4000 mAh

4000 mAh

Camera (Fr/R)

12MP/5MP 12MP/8MP

Price

$600

$800

Build and Looks

Two hands working on a table drawing architectural plans

As with most manufacturers, Samsung take the path of evolution, not revolution. Despite this, there are differences between the S7 and S8. The S8 is slightly taller, and a fair bit heavier. It’s easy to feel the extra weight as soon as you pick it up, but that’s not a bad thing. The S8 doesn’t have the curved screen of the standard model, presumably because Samsung felt it too exposed, so they’ve gone with the more common bezel-ed approach.

What is clear, is that the S8 Active screen cover a much greater area than it does on the S7 Active. This comes at a cost. The physical navigation buttons on the S7 have gone. This is a common trend on smartphones now, but if you do have the lifestyle or job which demands the wearing of gloves, it’s an issue. Whereas on the S7 Active you have a full hardware button to click, the S8 Active needs the static from your finger.

Otherwise, both look great, with textured finishes, protective pads on the corners and a good solid feel to them.

Rugged

Dolphin in a blue pool of water

If you’re going to sell an “Active” smartphone, it needs to be just that. Modern phones are very fragile things, so anybody looking for a rugged phone needs to know they’re getting one. In this respect, there’s nothing to choose. Both are IP68 compliant, which means dust proofing and water resistance for 30 minutes in 6 feet of water. Both also comply with Mil-STD 810G, which includes drop and shock resistance, heat protection and a lot more.

Because the S7 Active was already those things, there was nowhere for the S8 to improve on.

Display

The S8 Active display is quite a bit bigger than the S7 Active. At 5.8″ to 5.1″, the difference is quite noticeable. And not just on physical size. The S8 display is just better in all ways. It’s sharper, brighter and seems to render colors much more accurately. The resolution has another 400 px on the taller S8, but isn’t significantly different on paper. Both are AMOLED displays, which, even given the apparent lower quality in the S7 Active, still puts them both ahead of almost anything else.

Definitely a win for the S8 Active here.

Processor and Battery

The S8, as you’d imagine, has the next generation of processor compared to the S7. The Qualcomm 835 in the S8 is not only faster than the 820 in the S7, but it is also said to be 25% more power efficient. As both devices have identical 4000mAh batteries, this might be significant.

Both offer Quick Charging, and wireless charging. The difference is the USB-C connector on the S8, against the Micro-USB on the S7. USB-C is significantly faster at transferring data and power, and is a lot more useful all round.

Camera

Hand taking an image of autumn foliage with a smartphone

Both have identical 12MP rear cameras, and they are about as good as smartphone cameras get.  The front camera of the S8 has been upgraded from the S7’s 5MP, to 8MP. Although nominally more useful, we always feel 5MP is plenty for what is, essentially, a selfie camera.

Where the extra 3MP of the S8 Active might come in handy, is with video calling. If it’s important, the S8 is the only choice.

Storage

Although the S8 Active has 64GB to the S7’s 32GB, given that both have MicroSD card slots, this is less of an issue than it used to be.

But, if you prefer not to use the SD slot, then the internal storage of the S8 will be very attractive.

Software

The only real difference here, is that the S8 Active has Samsung’s Bixby assistant app. That, as much as anything else, would cause us to give this round to the S7. Bixby was a colossal mess when launched by Samsung. It barely worked and, when it did, was almost useless. It has improved somewhat in the past year, but it still doesn’t come close to Siri or even the now defunct Cortana on Windows Phone.

Otherwise, it’s Android all the way for both.

Pricing

Rolled up bank notes planted in the ground

The S8 Active still carries a $2100 premium over the S7 Active. Is it worth it? We’re not sure it is. Given how great the S7 Active is, and as a phone it still outperforms almost all others, then it’s an obvious winner in the value for money stakes. The tech upgrades just aren’t worth $200 in our view. And Bixby…oh Bixby.

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Take Better Smartphone Pictures Pt 2 https://mraberthon.com/take-better-smartphone-pictures-pt-2/ https://mraberthon.com/take-better-smartphone-pictures-pt-2/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:00:38 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13171 Learn to excel at the images you take every day, to the point that no one will believe you've taken them on your own smartphone. With these tips, the photos you capture will be on a different level altogether.

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If you’ve looked through Part 1 of our guide to taking better pictures with your smartphone, you’ll already have the key skills to improve all your images from your phone.

This second part looks at the camera app, and some of the features now available in both stock apps and 3rd party apps from the app stores.

Exposure

Women taking image in the dark of sunset at the water

The exposure of a picture is, in its simplest sense, the amount of light used to create it. Less light, darker picture and vice versa. Your camera actually does a great job of figuring out exactly how much light to let in to get the best exposure, but you can still do better. You don’t even need to go into full manual mode to do it.

As good as the camera is at guessing, it can sometimes be confused by what it sees. If, for example, you are in a dark room and point the camera at a bright window, the camera has to decide whether the dark room or the bright window is “correct”. If you don’t like what you see on the screen, tap to focus, but keep your finger on the screen. A slider graphic will appear which allows you to change the exposure. Slide up on the screen for lighter, and down for darker.

Just be aware that too much either way can ruin the quality, rather than make it better. Be gentle.

HDR

Taking an HDR image of a landmark building with people walking the square

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. In a nutshell, dynamic range is the difference from the darkest detail which can be determined, to the brightest. Outside this, things just look black or white. The human eye can see about 20 stops, or levels, of dynamic range without losing the ability to see details. The best dSLR cameras manage about 12. Your smartphone might be able to see 9 or 10, at the very most. This means that a lot of detail is lost when taking a picture of a scene with lots of bright areas and lots of shadow. And this is where HDR comes in.

In HDR mode, your camera processes the picture up to 5 times. One will be the “normal” image, and there will be 2 brighter and 2 darker versions. It then combines all 5 images to include as much detail form those bright and dark areas as possible. The difference can be quite astounding. Above is an image showing the difference between no HDR, and using it.

In the left half, although well exposed, it all lacks a little detail. This is because the camera has had to work very hard to capture as much information as possible. As a result, you have a very average picture. With HDR applied in the right half, you can easily see much more detail. The effect is overdone here, to illustrate the point, but shows what detail is available.

Your camera app may have 3 settings for HDR, On, Off and Auto. In all honesty, we’re really not sure what Auto does, apart from extend the time it takes to take a picture. Our advice is to turn it off until you need it.

Burst Mode

The legs of a couple of athletes all lined up to start a run.

In most apps, burst is turned on by default. If you keep your finger on the shutter button, it will keep taking pictures until you lift your finger. If you’re wondering why this might be useful, in most cases, it isn’t. But, if you are taking pictures of your kids doing something, or a sports event, or even just trying to get a group photo without someone blinking, burst mode is ideal.

It does take time to process a dozen or more pictures, of course, so your camera becomes unusable for several seconds if you have fired the shutter in burst mode.

Live Blur

Also known as Live Bokeh, this feature allows you to change the focal plane of your image. When you tap on the screen to set the point of focus, everything just in front and just behind where you tapped will be in focus. Everything outside this shallow area will be progressively out of focus. Live Blur will allow you to increase or decrease how much blur your image has. Some apps will even allow this to be changed afterwards. They do this by taking all images with infinite focus, and then applying the blur according to how you set the slider.

To see how effective this can be, look at the two images below. The first has no blur at all, and almost everything right back to the trees behind is in focus.

Three men posing for a picture in a backyard

But, when we apply the blur after, the difference it makes to the picture is huge.

Three men posing for a picture in a backyard with a blurred background

At this level there are some issues but, if used carefully, pictures containing people, like the one above, can be greatly improved by using live blur. Isolating the subjects from the background brings the picture to life.

Editing Images

Photoshop opened on a laptop to edit an image of a child. Laptop is on a wooden desk near a window

Every camera app has editing options these days, even the most basic stock app. These can be used to rotate, crop or resize any picture. They can also be used to apply a number of filters. Some of these are more subtle than others, and can be useful. Some, though might have early novelty value, but not for long.

If you are serious about photography, then look for some of the great free apps that are available. Even Adobe Photoshop has a mobile “Express” version. It doesn’t come close to offering what the desktop version does, of course, but goes further than many. Other longstanding apps are Snapseed and Pixlr. Both put a number of great controls at your fingertips. If you have an older iPhone, and might be missing some of the features that have since appeared, try Camera+. Much of what the app has been doing for years is now in every stock app on any platform.

Zoom

This is simple. Don’t use it. Very few smartphones have optical zoom capability, where the lenses move to zoom in and out. Even those that do don’t do it very well. Most phones use digital zoom, which sounds great but is awful. When you zoom in, the camera tries to recreate the section of the image you’re looking at, but bigger. Try zooming all the way in on anything and take a picture. You’ll see how awful it is.

Given the high MP counts in modern smartphone cameras, get as close as is practical, and then crop the image. Unless you want to print at large sizes, this is your best – read, only – option.

Stay Clean

A sparkling clean camera lens

The lens on your smartphone camera is small. Very, very small. Your hands, your purse, your pocket, they are all filthy. Pick a clean glass up and press your just-washed finger on it. It will leave a fingerprint. Now imagine that much dirt on a lens the size of a pen tip, and you’ll see the problem. If you can, and you should, always wipe your lens with a clean cloth before taking pictures. Images you think might be out of focus or “soft” might just be the result of a greasy lens.

And there you have it. These tips, together with Part 1 of our guide to taking better smartphone pictures should help you to do just that. As bugs go, photography is one worth getting. If you get it, then why not put a little work into being better at it?

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Take Better Smartphone Pictures Pt. 1 https://mraberthon.com/take-better-smartphone-pictures-pt-1/ https://mraberthon.com/take-better-smartphone-pictures-pt-1/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 16:00:41 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13158 Taking images using our smartphone is a must these days, yet what if you wanted clear and well composed ones vs the blurry image we see all too often? Join us on a photography journey to learn a couple of tricks that will make all the difference.

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We now take more pictures using smartphones every day than we do with “real” cameras. The problem is that most of them are pretty poor. They’re good enough for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatever, but wouldn’t pass any kind of real quality test.

But seeing as how phone cameras are getting better all the time, surely we can all get better pictures out of them. Well, yes, we can, and it’s not that difficult. All it needs is a few minutes getting to know your camera, and a little bit of thought. If you want more than just selfies, and want to have a go at something approaching real photography, your phone can do a decent job of it. As long as you know what to do.

There are 3 basic elements to any picture – light, composition, and subject. Each is important, and getting them right will make a massive difference to your pictures. They’re not complicated for our needs here, so take a second to digest the information on each. In no time at all, they will become second nature. Muscle memory will kick in before you realize, and better pictures will become effortless.

But first…

Smartphone Camera Differences

Two hands holding up smartphone to take a beautiful water scenery image

We’ll start with a slight disclaimer. We can’t hope to cover every camera in every phone. Nor can we cover every camera app in both app stores. We might mention features you don’t have, or not mention features you do. This guide isn’t about the specifics, it’s about some general techniques to get better smartphone pictures.

So, now that’s out of the way, we’ll continue.

Composition

Teaching the rule of 3 in photography with a sceneric image of rocks and the horizon

If you’ve never heard about the “Rule of Threes”, make it your goal to take at least this one piece of information with you. Sometimes, we see a picture which we like but, if we were asked why we like it, we wouldn’t really be sure. Part of that is the composition, and part of composition is the rule of threes.

Your camera app may have an option to show a grid on the screen. This grid is normally two horizontal and two vertical lines which intersect 1/3 of the way in from each side, 1/3 from the bottom and top. These are the “thirds” we talk about, and here’s how you use them. If you don’t have the option to show a grid, then a little imagination will do the trick. Here’s the lines as they are when displayed, so you have an idea if you don’t show the grid

Hopefully, that gives you an idea of where the rule of thirds comes from, as the screen is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically.

If you are taking a shot which has any kind of horizon, try and put it along one of the horizontal lines. Whether you choose the top or bottom line will depend on what you want in the image. In our example above, you will see the top of the mountains are used on the bottom line. It doesn’t have to be exact, but should be close enough.

You may also have noticed one critical thing about the image above. That is that the rocks – known as a “cairn” – isn’t in the middle of the picture. If you have a single subject, the composition works better if you put them in line with one of the vertical lines. If it is a person, have them looking into the frame towards the biggest part) rather than out of it. In just a head and shoulders portrait, put one of your subject’s eyes at the top crossing points of the lines. This makes a much better balance.

This one simple observation will improve many a picture.

Light

Two hands taking image of singer on a smartphone in the dark black and white

No picture works without light. Unfortunately, despite how many times manufacturers will tell you otherwise, smartphone flash is terrible. Even LED, even Dual Flash. It’s all terrible. Unless you’re taking a selfie in a dark room, you should try and avoid using it altogether. Your phone flash has an effective range of about 6-8 feet, which makes it useless for all but the quickest snapshot. Even then, it takes forever to actually kick in and take the shot. Seriously, try and avoid it.

Fortunately, many recent smartphones have some sort of image stabilization built in, which means we can get away with lower light. Low light means longer shutter speeds. Long shutter speeds means more shake because it’s difficult to hold anything dead still for a second or two. Image stabilization is a great benefit here.

However, if possible, try and include as much natural light as you can. This will improve the quality of the picture enormously. If you take a picture of someone, have the light off to one side. This creates nice shadows on the face, and means they don’t have to squint into the sun. It also means the camera isn’t being overloaded with light, and you won’t end up with a horribly bright background or, worse, an impossibly dark subject.

If you plan a photography trip, then try and avoid the midday sun. Midday has terribly harsh light, and flatters neither people, buildings nor landscapes. Morning or late afternoon/evening are much nicer times. The light is warmer, the shadows softer and the overall mood just much more pleasant.

Subject

Man in round sunhat taking an image of architectural building

If you are serious about photography, then you will probably end up favoring one particular area. It might be landscapes, people, architecture, abstract, black and white or any one of a thousand others. Each have their own specific requirements, but there are a couple of tips which carry through to most types of photography, and easily transfer to your smartphone.

If taking pictures of people, animals, still life or any other relatively compact subject, try and get down to what passes for eye level. With people, especially kids, the best images are when the shutter and eye are broadly in line. With still life, which can be anything from food photography to cars, to just about anything, imagine what eye level should be and use that. It might sound vague, but you will get used to it. If in doubt, try a few different levels.

Don’t always demand that your subject pose for you. Seize the moment. Often, candid pictures are the best kind. That unguarded moment that tells a story of its own.

Women in far off background taking picture of sheep on a farm

Focus, focus, focus. Most smartphone cameras now have a touch focus feature. This is where you tap the screen on the point where you wish to focus. Use it, and use it well. It doesn’t always need to be the obvious point. Be creative, and see what happens.

With these handful of simple tips, you will improve your pictures instantly. They will also continue to improve with time. Be brave, and you never know where you’ll end up.

In Part 2 of this guide, we will look at some of the other features your smartphone has, to add a little creativity to your pictures.

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Mobile Network Review https://mraberthon.com/mobile-network-review/ https://mraberthon.com/mobile-network-review/#respond Wed, 27 Jun 2018 16:00:58 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=12733 Read to find out all the information you'll need regarding prices of mobile data plans, mobile networks and their coverage. This thorough write-up will clarify all the misconceptions regarding which network is indeed the one worth investing in, as it will give you your full money's worth.

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There’s never been so much choice for cellphone users in the US as there is today. As well as the Big 4 of AT&T T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint, there are scores of re-sellers. All do their own packages at wildly differing prices.

For this review, we’re going to focus on the main networks only, but we’re going to add in MetroPCS. The reason we’re include MetroPCS is simple. Although now wholly owned by T-Mobile, they were an independent network until 2012, and still operate a large part of their own infrastructure. Other than that, it would be impossible to review every single airtime seller in the country, and the vast majority of them will actually use one of the Big 4.

We’ll look at coverage, performance and price as the basis for the review, and will also mention any added features or peculiarities.


Coverage

You can have the fastest network on earth but, if you only reach a handful of people, it may as well be the slowest. One of the problems with carrier-led coverage is that they are liberal with the truth. They may well show a particular area as having good coverage which then turns out to be very patchy. Carriers, as some sort of defence, claim they cannot legislate for all conditions or even the bricks your house is made of. While true, in our opinion it’s a bit of a sly trick to take the optimal signal location and use that to justify the coverage map.

So, instead of relying on the carriers, we looked at a number of independent coverage map providers. We found that the independents were less optimistic about edge-of-area coverage than the carriers were. One point to note is that these figures assume all US geographic locations, even the tops of mountains. If we just used urban or populated rural areas, the figures would be much higher.

4 Biggest cell companies coverage on a map

Verizon

A clear winner, and by some distance. With the exception of some very remote areas in Oklahoma, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming, Verizon have almost blanket 4G coverage available. In populated areas, there are very few deadspots, even indoors.

AT&T

AT&T, although some way behind Verizon overall, actually leads in some areas. The eastern seaboard is a particularly strong region for AT&T, and they also stand up well against Verizon across much of the Midwest.

The Rest

T-Mobile and MetroPCS, as you might expect, came out reasonably level in terms of coverage. Most urban areas are well catered for, but out into the wilds of the more western states will give problems. Sprint do okay in many eastern areas, but coverage all but stops when you get top a line drawn through MN, KS and TX. Despite this, Sprint have excellent coverage in the areas they are present, with few dead zones anywhere.


Performance

These days, when we talk about performance, we’re really talking about 4G or LTE speeds. Most carriers now operate mainly on 4G, with only a few pockets of 3G-only coverage. For that reason, we’ll concentrate on 4G, The average 4G download speed across the entire country is 21.5Mbps. We’ve used that for our benchmark, but also taken into account some regional speeds.

highway showing great speed of cars with a keyboard merged into picture

Verizon

The winner again, but by a much smaller margin. Verizon managed an average data download speed of 38Mbps. Although this was higher than all the others, they did suffer in some locations. Overall, though, speeds on Verizon are the most consistent across the country.

T-Mobile and MetroPCS

As might be expected these two again ran neck and neck. T-Mobile were the more consistent, and MetroPCS struggled badly in some cities. Overall, though, there wasn’t a lot between them. The consistency of T-Mobile probably just gives them the edge, with both having a national average of around 28Mbps.

AT&T

AT&T were somewhat disappointing overall. They lagged quite a way behind the top 3, but did perform well on the west coast. Given AT&T’s size, and their coverage, this could be something a simple as network over-utilization. Over-crowded towers means a bottleneck of data, and time will tell if this improves for AT&T or not. The overall national average was 23.5Mbps

Sprint

With Sprint, your location is going to be crucial. In the heavily populated areas of the Midwest, they actually did pretty well for download speeds. But a national average of just 18Mbps meant they were quite a way behind the pack.


Price

Although having a cellphone contract is getting cheaper, thanks to re-seller competition, there is still a wide range of prices for seemingly similar packages.

Money popping out of a mobile phone

Best Unlimited Data Plans

Sprint are by far the cheapest for an all-you-can-eat data plan. The problem is that the point of unlimited data is to stream music and video wherever you are. Given Sprint’s less than stellar performance tests, buying cheap might not be the best option. Verizon and AT&T have excellent options on their HD data plans, although they are a little pricey. The problem is that both impose strict policy requirements on your usage on their cheaper plans.

The best compromise appears to be T-Mobile, who have an unlimited data plan for around $65/month. You can’t stream in HD for that price. To do so will cost an extra $10/month, but most people will find the standard resolution perfectly acceptable.

Best Standard Plans

When you consider that all 5 networks will charge $50+ for 5GB of data, you really have to question why you should just pay the bit extra for unlimited. Well, 5GB is still a lot of data transfer and, unless you watch Netflix for 8 hours a day on your phone, will be more than enough. AT&T also allow you to roll over unused data to the next month, which is a huge bonus. Otherwise, there’s little to choose between any of them.

Unless you really need unlimited data, save those few dollars for something else.

Best Prepaid Plans

Prepaid plans are one of those things which are very difficult to unravel, such is the number of plans available. Often, they will be no better value than monthly plans if you use a lot of data but, if you don’t, then there are bargains to be had. AT&T again show their mettle by allowing 8GB of HD streaming and data for $40. That’s far more than any other network here. The only other option which comes close is MetroPCS’ unlimited prepaid plan at $50.


Summary

Overall, Verizon stand head and shoulders above the rest for both coverage and performance. They aren’t the cheapest, but you do get what you pay for. T-Mobile and MetroPCS are so close in all our tests that they are impossible to choose between. We will say though, that MetroPCS has a wider range of plans available, and tend to be a little cheaper than their parent. That probably just about squeezes them, ahead.

We have mixed feelings about AT&T. Coverage is good, plans are also good, but speed is an issue. It’s not that it was a bad result, just that we expected so much more. For so long the leader in US mobile networks, the crown seems to be slipping somewhat. Sprint are not really a contender for much, if we’re honest. They do, however, have some real hotspots around the country for coverage and performance. Do check locally to see if they might be your best choice, assuming you stay local.

How To Beat The System

Locked vs unlocked phones on newspaper

Don’t want to be tied to a single network? Well, you don’t need to be.

At Mr Aberthon, we have a huge range of phones that are unlocked for use on any network. This means you can choose a network and, if it isn’t working out as you’d hoped, simply get a SIM card from another network. This is especially useful if you travel to an area or country that would incur roaming charges. Roaming is very expensive, so being able to use a local SIM can save a ton of money.

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Who Can Access Your Data And Location? https://mraberthon.com/who-can-access-your-data-and-location/ https://mraberthon.com/who-can-access-your-data-and-location/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 16:00:02 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13115 Understanding how the online world works, will give you an understanding of what indeed is personal and what is open for grabs. Your data and location may have been personal had you never got a cell phone to begin with, yet now that you do, join us as we discover who exactly can access your private information.

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Actually, it’s a good question that has two answers.

Legally Speaking

Data

If we take it as a “whether you like it or not” question, then law enforcement are the only people with the right to access your data. However, as we saw with the iPhone incident, them actually getting it is partly up to the manufacturer or app developer. As an example, WhatsApp encrypts everything from end to end. This makes it impossible for it to be intercepted and read. Governments and law enforcement agencies hate this, of course, but there’s little they can do.

Cynics amongst users of WhatsApp and other encrypted app point to one simple fact. That governments have always routinely overstepped their allowed limits in order to spy on US citizens. Had they not done so, it’s possible that people would be a bit more relaxed about it. Possible, but probably not likely, if we’re honest.

United States Government Capital - White house

Even then, it requires a court order to grant permission for any agency to read your data. Or so you’d hope. Sadly, monitoring phone calls, texts and app use is pretty standard the world over. It doesn’t necessarily mean the information can be used in that form, but it’s still monitored.

Location

Your location is a little different. Even if you turn off location services for Facebook, maps etc, you still can’t hide. Your phone pings cell towers constantly, and the phone company can establish your location pretty accurately. By using your 3 nearest towers, your position can be obtained to within about 150 feet or so. But only in ideal conditions. What if your nearest tower is down, or you’re in a rural area where the nearest network entry point is 10 miles away? The fact is that your call will be routed however the network deems it best, so your location can only be guaranteed to within about a 20 mile radius with any certainty. After that, it takes a few leaps of faith to get any closer.

Location on a map using a red push pin

The police make around 1 million requests to the phone companies every year, for location data. These turn up in court cases on a regular basis to put someone at the scene of a crime. They don’t need your permission, just a friendly judge to sign the warrant. It used to be that they could just seize your phone and inspect the location data that way. In 2014, though, the US Supreme Court made warrants mandatory as the phone is personal property.

Giving Permission

You’d be mad just to hand over every aspect of your daily life to anybody. Even worse handing it over to companies who will profit handsomely from selling it on. But that’s what many of us do every day. When Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a senate committee to admit wrongdoings by Facebook in how they handled personal data of its members, anybody who knows how apps work wasn’t fooled. Zuckerberg admitted to “mistakes” when, in reality, his only mistake was failing to get away with it indefinitely.

Facebook Logo and someone in silhouette using a cell phone

Every day, we sign our routine, location and everything else over to the makers of the apps we use. Many apps now just won’t work without location services being active, or without giving permission for access to the camera, phone book, call records texts and more. So what do we do? Well, we want the app so we agree.

By giving permission you are, effectively, signing away your right to complain when the app maker uses it for their own means and gains. Does that make it right? No, but you have chosen to do it, so it makes it legal. The European Union have recently demanded that all online services who hold data on individuals, even if it’s just a name and address, must re-confirm permission to hold the details. This has led to many people refusing to grant that permission. People have been receiving emails from online businesses they have long forgotten about. If you bought something online in 2002, that company is now asking for permission to carry on holding your details. Who knows what they’ve done with the information in the last 16 years?

In the US, there is no such safeguard in place. We give permission implicitly in most cases, and have no easy way to rescind it.

The Google Monster

If you have a Gmail account, or a Google account for other uses, you’ve already lost. Google monitors everything about you. That great feature they offer, of finding your phone if you lose it? Try it out in your Google account. You will see that they have your movements tracked since the first time you logged in on that particular phone.

Digital Drawing of Computer, camera, ipad on blue background and google photo logo

You want to use Google Maps? They will need to know where you are, and you will happily tell them. But it isn’t just maps, it’s EVERYTHING. Contacts, calendar, maps, YouYube, Gmail, the music you listen to, and more. If you want to know just how much Google has on you, you can check online. Google don’t make it easy to find that link organically, but now you have it, use it.

We’re not trying to make you paranoid, and we’re not saying that all your data is being misused. But some of it is, and will be unless you do something about it. Check your apps, and turn off the permissions that it really doesn’t need. If you don’t need location services, turn them off altogether. Otherwise, disable them app by app.

Your online history is worth money, but not to you.

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Cat S60 Vs Sonim XP7 https://mraberthon.com/cat-s60-vs-sonim-xp7/ https://mraberthon.com/cat-s60-vs-sonim-xp7/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 16:00:31 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13101 Choices, choices. Taking a quick, or even long, look at the Cat S60 and the Sonim XP7, and you will be thoroughly confused. They are the toughest of the tough in the world of smartphones, so which one should you pick? Here we help you through the pros and cons of each to get you closer to your decision.

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If you want to talk about heavyweights in the smartphone world, these two will be near the top of the list.

Many smartphones now have some protection built in, mainly from water ingress and from damage to the display. Few, though, go as far as the Cat S60 and the Sonim XP7. Both are built to withstand the rigors of tough environments much better than, for example, an iPhone of Samsung Galaxy S. But, if you had to pick one, which manages to deliver the knockout punch?

Cat S60

Sonim Xp7

Size (in)

5.82 x 2.89 x 0.50

5.39 x 2.84 x 0.82

Weight

7.9oz 10.2oz

Rugged Rating

IP68

IP68

Display Res

720px x 1280px

480px x 800px

Rear Camera

13MP

5MP

Front Camera

5MP 1MP

Battery

3800mAh

4800mAh

Talk Time

30hrs 40hrs

4G

Yes

Yes

Wi-Fi

802.11 n

802.11 n

Design

Most modern high-end smartphones weigh in at about 5.6oz, so when you see the weights of both of these, it might be a surprise. The Cat S60 is the lightweight of the two, at 7.9oz. The Sonim XP7 is actually 10.2oz. That, frankly, is heavy. Too heavy, actually, if you look what you get for your money. It’s tough, certainly, but as tough as the much lighter Cat? We’re not sure.

Despite the weight difference, the Cat S60 is actually the larger of the two. Neither, though, are too big or small to be an issue, and both sit nicely in the hand.

Sonim XP7

Sonim XP7

Both carry an IP68 rating. This makes them dust and water resistant. They will survive being immersed in up to 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. The Cat S60 is also resistant to heavy vibration, which might be crucial in some work environments. The Sonim XP7, for its part, is shock resistant, but Sonim don’t actually state to what extent.

Both run Android but, it must be said, the Cat S60 is a little newer than the XP7, and so might be a version ahead where the operating system is concerned.

Display

We should say that these aren’t designed to be multimedia devices. They’re not for sitting on a bus and watching box sets, they are working phones. This is reflected in the display specs. Both are respectable, without ever being great. The Cat is a 720 HD and the XP7 is 480px x 800px. We say again, though, if you’re buying either of these phones because of the display, you’re buying the wrong phones.

Both are okay for their purpose, though, and won’t disappoint. Size wise, the Cat is 4.7″ and the XP7 is 4″.

Cat S60 Front

Cat S60

Camera

If you’re already leaning towards the Cat, then this won’t change your mind. Both have rear and front cameras, which is a bonus, but that’s about where the good news stops for the Sonim.

The Cat S60 has a 13MP rear camera offering Full HD video recording, and a front 5MP camera. Video calling is also available. The Sonim XP7 has an 8MP rear camera, also offering Full HD video recording, but has a very disappointing 1MP front camera. If it were 3MP, or even 2.1MP, we could just shrug and move on. 1MP, though, was hardly worth the effort of including it.

CPU and Power

Both devices have a quad core Qualcomm processor, but the S60 is a generation or two up from the XP7. Despite this, the XP7 is still plenty speedy enough for any type of use. The S60 has 32GB of storage, with a Micro SD card slot for another 128GB if required. The XP7 offers 16GB, but there’s no card slot. In our eyes, that’s a pretty poor emission in this day and age.

Cat S60 Back top and bottom

Cat S60

 

The XP7 does have a much larger battery, and this probably accounts for the extra weight. At 4800mAh, it is a significant amount of power, good for 40hrs talktime, if you need it. The Cat S60 gives 3800mAh, with 30hrs of talk time. Although less than the Sonim, it’s still a massive amount of time from a single charge.

Sonim XP7

Sonim XP7

Connectivity

Both are 4G ready, with wi-fi up to 802.11 n speeds. Both also have GPS and NFC capabilities.

Conclusion

The Sonim XP7, in any other comparison, would win hands down. Unfortunately, here it’s up against the best in its class. Take the slightly disappointing  display out of the equation, and the XP7 is enough for anybody. But, up against the S60, it does start to look a little weak.

Given that the difference in price isn’t particularly substantial, we’d have to say go for the S60 every time.

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OnePlus 6 https://mraberthon.com/oneplus-6/ https://mraberthon.com/oneplus-6/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 16:00:54 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13080 Looking for a new phone once the one you have needs a replacement? Well, the OnePlus 6 is something to keep on the front of your mind. It's fabulous features and pretty cool price tag make it a pretty unbelievable phone indeed.

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In case you live in a cave, and the name OnePlus is new to you, pay attention. The list of Chinese smartphone makers seems to get longer every day, and OnePlus is one of the newer brands. Formed in 2013, OnePlus brought in revenue of $1.7 billion in 2017. Going from zero to $1.7 billion in 4 years is probably worth paying attention to, right? Of course.

After a slightly awkward start with distribution problems in India and Indonesia, along with an admission that the USB-C cables bundled with the OnePlus 2 didn’t conform to the USB standard, things got better very quickly. OnePlus have now announced the OnePlus 6, due for release in the coming weeks.

The OnePlus Development Path

Despite the issues mentioned above, in technical terms OnePlus hit the ground running. Not just running, actually, but Usain Bolt running.

OnePlus 6 zoomed in

The OnePlus One was touted as a “flagship killer”, providing specs better than many high end smartphones at the time, but for half the price. One or two early glitches were ironed out quickly, and the One was a huge success. The Two was equally as successful, which led to the release of the OnePlus X, a budget version of the flagship with a smaller screen.

The OnePlus 3 and 3T came in fairly quick succession. The 3T was along the lines of Apples S sub-models, with small improvements over the original model. Curiously, there was no OnePlus 4, but the OnePlus 5 and 5T are where the company started to become a real threat to the big boys. The 5 was the first dual camera model, and the 5T had a slightly bigger display at 6″ compared to 5.5″. The 5T also had facial recognition for unlocking the phone.

Until Finally…

Rumors about what the OnePlus 6 would present to the world have been circulating for months. Most, to be fair, were pretty accurate as is the case with most smartphone rumors these days. Makers tend to have an unspoken policy of leaking several feature rumors to see which gain traction and which don’t. This can determine exactly what goes into the final design.

OnePlus 6 front and back view

As expected, the 6 has mirrored the likes of Apple and Samsung, with glass front and back, but with a steel frame holding it together. Although ripples of conversation about a bigger display have been around, the 6.5″ display was still a nice surprise. OnePlus have also chosen to keep the headphone jack. This is an increasingly common trend with manufacturers, following a mixed reception to Apple’s insistence on removing it from recent iPhones.

Fortunately, the large amount of glass is Gorilla Glass 5, which does add some protection from scratching and minor knocks.

The battery is a little disappointing at just 3300mAh. OnePlus do claim it can give “a day’s use” – whatever that means – from just 30 minutes charge time, though.

OnePlus 6 on wooden table being charged

The Cameras

It’s not so long ago that a rear camera, even on a flagship smartphone, wouldn’t break 8MP. More likely it was around 5MP, and you’d be lucky to get more than 2.1MP in the front camera. But, hold on to your britches, because OnePlus have reversed the trend. With a 16MP rear camera, 8 or 12MP might have been the expected number for the front. But no. Instead, OnePlus have somehow squeezed in a second 20MP sensor in the rear, and a 16MP front camera into the slim body.

Not only is the pixel count impressive, but the performance, particularly on video is equally good. With image stabilization on both still and video, the video is capable of 4K capture. More impressively is the ability to capture Full HD at 240fps and 720p HD at 480fps. Just check out YouTube if you want to see how great 480 frames a second actually is. By that point, you’re actually getting into high-end camera stuff, rather than regular smartphone video.

OnePlus 6 four smartphones lined up like dominos

The Cost

The expected price on the day of release is expected to be between $529 and $629 depending on the memory/storage config you choose. This makes it considerably less expensive than either Apple’s or Samsung’s flagship phones. Despite the price, it lacks nothing from either of those makers, with the possible exception of a slightly disappointing 2280 x 1080px resolution display.

Otherwise, you’re getting a terrific amount of technology for your money. Of course, once the initial hubub has died a little, expect those prices to drop. At that point, the OnePlus 6 becomes very difficult to resist.

Are there better smartphones? In some ways, yes. But are there better value for money smartphones? Not at this level.

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Best Smartphone For Music Lovers https://mraberthon.com/best-smartphone-for-music-lovers/ https://mraberthon.com/best-smartphone-for-music-lovers/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 16:00:02 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13071 Loving music is a fabulous thing, yet what if its hard to find devices that actually let us enjoy the quality of this art? Therefore, we compiled a post to help simplify things. Here we discuss the many terms necessary to understand how music quality translates into mobile devices, as well as some devices that totally fit the bill.

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If you are under 25 years old, you’ll probably struggle to remember what a big deal ipods were. In the days before phones had lots of storage or a Micro SD card slot, a separate music player was essential if you wanted music on the go. This of course, meant carrying two devices.

Eventually, phone makers started to catch on to the idea, and we ended up where we are today. So which phones do music best?

The Hardware

As with many things, the better the hardware, the better the result. It’s exactly the same with audio. You can have the best file quality available, but play it through sub-par hardware and your encoding efforts have been a waste of time. Unfortunately, smartphone makers use a wide range of components, of varying qualities, in their devices.

The audio world also has a lot of terminology that means little to the average user. So, before we get into the phones themselves, here are some of the key terms.

Terminology

DAC – A Digital to Analogue converter is essential if you want the best possible sound. Without it, your phone, your headphones, and even your ears, can’t interpret all the signals they are receiving. This means you often don’t get to hear the file as it’s maker intended. A DAC converts the digital signal from the file into an analogue signal for your ears. The problem is that DACs can be expensive. The technology is also not easy to minify down to a size usable in small devices. But, some makers have achieved it, so it is an important point.

File Format – everyone has heard of mp3, it is the most used audio file format around today. The reason it is popular, is that it reduces file size by up to 90% over that of a WAV file that used to be typical of a PC. The reason for the small files is that mp3 is a lossy file format. This means that data considered unnecessary is thrown away in order to reduce the file size. Lossless compression such as FLAC is a better alternative, but this results in very large file sizes.

Bitrate – When encoding a file to mp3 or any other format, the quality or bitrate of the encoding is important. It is this bitrate which will determine how much of the original file the compressed mp3 will have. The higher the bitrate, usually the better the audio quality.

Dolby – Dolby used to all about noise reduction. This amounted to little more than reducing the hiss which can occur in sound recordings. Now, Dolby do everything from increased stereo spacing to all sorts of sound processing for different effects.

So, now that you have some idea of what things mean, here are the phones that provide the best audio quality.

LG V30

LG V30 smartphone front view

LG are sometimes the forgotten men of smartphone design. They have pushed many innovations into the market, which others have gone on to perfect. The V30 does have a DAC and, more importantly, it operates at the 32bit level. This is real audiophile quality, when others are using 16bit or, at a push, 24bit. Basically, the more bits, the more data. The V30 carries a massive dynamic range, so no treble or bass is lost.

The phone is also supplied with high-end B&O earphones to get the best out of the hardware. Crucially, and going against current trends, the V30 has also kept the earphone jack.  The speakers aren’t great, actually, but if you use your phones speakers to listen to music, you’re wasting your money on anything above a mid-range device.

The LG V30 is one of the best portable audio devices around. The fact that it’s also a smartphone is just a bonus.

Razer Phone

Razer phone front and back view

Not to be confused with the Motorola Razr of a few years ago, Razer are a brand better known to gamers than smartphone users. With Dolby Atmos processing brought over from its gaming roots, and put through a 24bit DAC, sound quality is exceptional. As if to torment us all, the Razer doesn’t have a headphone jack, and uses an adapter instead. Don’t blame us when you lose it, blame them.

Curiously, the company have taken a massive amount of trouble to provide a surprisingly good speaker setup. It’s probably the best of any smartphone, actually. However, as we’ve already said, if you do like music, no smartphone speaker is ever going to really satisfy.

ZTE Axon 7

ZTE Axon 7 front and back view

Although not the newest phone here, it’s mid-range price is very deceiving when it comes to the quality of the device. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the audio quality it produces. Dual, dedicated Hi-Fi audio chips with DAC included, plus Dolby Atmos sound processing sets the Axon 7 apart from most other phones. Even with average earphones, the sound quality is amazing. Add a pair of really good earphones, and it’s as good as audio on a smartphone gets.

Even when pushed to the limit, sound remains clear and bright, with little or no distortion. We won’t go into the other great features of the Axon 7, but for less than $400, you won’t get more for your money.

HTC 10

HTC 10 being held in mans hand

It seems all the best advances in audio fort smartphones is coming out of China these days. The HTC 10 has a 24bit DAC and has maintained the audio jack, which nudges it ahead of its successor, the HTC 11. It isn’t the loudest here, in terms of volume output, but the quality more than makes up for the lack of power.

All audio needs a software codec to handle the file format, and HTC made a bold decision to go with their own, rather than a stock codec. The gamble has paid off handsomely, because the quality is quite remarkable.

Sony Xperia ZX Premium

Sony Xperia ZX Premium on wood table

It’s really no surprise that the company which launched mobile music with the Walkman should have a phone in this list. Sony, as they often do, like to use their own hardware and software, rather than buying in from elsewhere. This allows them a greater degree of quality control, and it shows.

The ZX Premium’s custom processing engine brings audio files to near-studio quality, and Sony have included a native music app which is better than almost all 3rd party apps available.

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Netgear Unite Explore 815 Review https://mraberthon.com/netgear-unite-explore-815-review/ https://mraberthon.com/netgear-unite-explore-815-review/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:00:07 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13341 Being connected to Wi-Fi at all times has become a necessity for today's generation. Yet it isn't always realistic when you are hiking in the wild or in a hotel with awful connection. This is where the Unite Explore steps in. Read more to find out all the cool features it sports and how easy it is to use.

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Netgear are prolific in how they turn out all sorts of networking devices. The Unite Explore, or 815, is an example of how to get it (almost) right.

Build and Looks

In case you’ve never seen a mobile hotspot up close, the design is pretty simple. Size wise, it’s about the size and shape of a deck of cards, but slightly more bulky.

The Explore is 4.5 x 2.8 x 0.8 inches, and weighs 6.3 oz. This means it is convenient enough to fit in any pocket or bag. Even though holding the device isn’t necessary in normal use, it still feels solid and easy to grip.

Looks wise, there isn’t a lot to tell. There’s a smallish color screen, which gives information such as connection strength, battery life, number of connected devices etc. It isn’t a touch screen, which does give some of its competitors a slight advantage. Despite that, setup via any browser, including on your phone, is easy.

Black and white image of a hand close up under falling water likely from a sink

It might be crucial, it might not be, but the Unite Explore is MIL-STD 810 compliant, This means it’s water and dust proof, plus shockproof to the extent where the odd drop shouldn’t cause any damage. Should you leave it in a backpack or other bag, and this gets wet, the protection offered means the Explore will likely survive its dip.

Performance

These days, if you’re serious about being online, 4G is a necessity. Unlike many hotspots, which are limited to 3G, the Unite Explore does indeed have 4G. You can connect up to 15 users at any time, bearing in mind that the more you connect, the more strain there is on your mobile data bandwidth. The Explore has Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, so there’s plenty of distribution bandwidth to connected devices, assuming you haven’t overloaded your 4G connection.

In testing, speeds were better than just about any other mobile hotspot, including other 4G models. An added advantage is the use of dual-band Wi-Fi, with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz in use. This not only means more compatibility with older devices, but that the much less crowded 5 GHz band will allow much better speeds.

Security

Two security cameras perched on a pole

Any connection to the hotspot is via a password, of course. You have the choice of giving this password to friends and family or creating guest access. With guest access, you can specify for how long someone can connect, and provide a single use password.

You also have the option to set filters to prevent kids or someone else accessing content you’d rather they didn’t.

All in all, the security options are what you’d expect from a top of the range mobile hotspot.

Battery

One advantage of mobile hotspots is that the hardware inside is pretty compact. Other that a single PCB and a couple of connectors, there’s little else of note. This leaves tons of room for a large battery, and Netgear haven’t disappointed. The huge 4340 mAh battery will provide up to 22 hrs of use if there is just a single device connection in use. More devices will use more power, of course.

A neat feature is the ability to charge your phone from the Unite Explore. Simply connect the two with the adapter, and the phone will charge as though it is connected to a power source. Charging speed isn’t particularly fast, it is worth noting. It is, though, certainly a great backup in case of power emergencies.

Summary

Netgear Unite Explore hotspot on a cork surface

It would be easy for companies like Netgear to just churn out basic plastic boxes with some sort of air card installed, and not much more. To be fair, though, with the Unite Explore, they’ve created something worthy of the flagship tag.

There are some limitations, such as the lack of a touchscreen, but that becomes less crucial after the initial setup. Battery life is superb, and speed of data transfer is excellent over 4G.

We’d prefer faster charging speeds, but it’s a big battery to fill, so we’re going to give the Unite Explore a break on that one. Overnight is still plenty of time for a full charge.

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Dollar Tree Phone Chargers https://mraberthon.com/dollar-tree-phone-chargers/ https://mraberthon.com/dollar-tree-phone-chargers/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 16:00:39 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13282 Safety is always on our minds, so what are the chances regarding dollar tree phone chargers? Or what about functionality? Here we look into the many aspects to keep in mind and weigh it against the $1 price tag. Read more to find out if you may just be in luck.

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Unfortunately, dollar stores are an everyday necessity for some Americans and their families. But can it be possible to get quality goods of any kind for such a low price? Or is it, instead, a false economy where you’ll just end up spending more in the end?

Dollar Tree actually operate two business models. Buy in store, and you can get singles of anything for a dollar. Buying online, though, is different. When buying online, as long as you’re willing to buy in bulk volumes, every single item does cost just $1. By bulk, we’re not talking thousands, or even hundreds. In many cases, a dozen or two is all that you will be required to buy. You can’t, in most circumstances buy singles online.

The same is true of the phone chargers and cables available at Dollar Tree. In store you can buy a single charger or cable for a dollar. Online, you buy a case of 24, and it will cost $24. These are the things you will see on eBay for 4 or 5 dollars. A cheap charger for the customer, an easy profit for the seller. But how good can anything be which has been made, packaged, shipped (probably from China), and sold for just $1?

Dollar Tree Brands

Put simply, you won’t see brands of chargers at Dollar Tree that are instantly recognizable. The standard brand is E-Circuit which, although you will see on the likes of Amazon, is actually a Dollar Tree brand.

It is, to be honest, always best to use a manufacturer’s own charger, as contained in the box when you buy the phone. But if you need a replacement, there are several brands which will do the job. We’re just not sure E-Circuit is one of them.

Build Quality

Lady in pink dress outdoors holding a purse

When electronic products are being sold by the manufacturer for a few cents, there’s no way they’ve used quality components. In their defense, it’s not like they use cheap components and charge a lot for them. You literally are getting what you pay for. Open up any cheap charger or check the connectors on any cable, and you will see how poor they can be. Dollar Tree chargers are no exception. That’s not to say that some aren’t perfectly usable, just that quality control probably wasn’t the biggest concern coming off the production line.

Tests have been run on the plastics used in the manufacture of E-Circuit products, and many have found to have high levels of chlorine. While not harmful in handling or general use. Should cables or other components get hot enough, fumes are a distinct possibility. Chlorine fumes are extremely hazardous to health and, in some circumstances, can be fatal.

Soldering and just the general standard of how they are put together is also questionable. Looking at a few E-Circuit products physically broken down, they all resemble home projects. Again, we’re not suggesting they won’t work, but ongoing confidence levels aren’t high.

Performance

A guitarist performing and holding his guitar up into the sun during dawn or dusk

The general pattern with cheap cables of any kind is that, if they work at all, they might not work for long. Looking around, and from our own experience, more Dollar Tree chargers work than don’t. Some, though, get uncomfortably and suspiciously hot. It is these which tend to just stop working after a while. It’s likely that the cheap components and cheap assembly can’t withstand heat too well, so something gives out.

Those that do work, and continue to do so, actually do a reasonable job. They’re no faster or slower than what you’d expect. We can’t really speak to whether they continue to perform in the long term, but there’s probably no reason not to spend a dollar on an emergency cable and leave it in the car/laptop bag or wherever.

Nowadays, it would be reasonable to expect all cables and chargers to conform to certain standards. Products have to carry stamps or include declarations of conformance, and all E-Circuit products do. However, conforming is a momentary thing. There’s no saying the charger won’t stop conforming at any time. This, again, is a confidence issue. We probably wouldn’t have the same confidence in a Dollar Tree charger as we would in the manufacturer’s charger.

Conclusion

blue background, white tag without a price

We keep mentioning confidence, and that’s really the crux of any decision to use a dollar charger. Assuming your Dollar Tree charger works when you first try it, you’re on a winner. In fact, for a dollar, you can buy half a dozen and still be in pocket over a better known brand.

We also said earlier, and we can only emphasize it again, you’re buying a charger or cable for $1. If you expect to get more than a dollar’s worth, then you need to shop elsewhere. However, if you’re happy to accept that some may not work, or not work properly at least, then go nuts.

If money is especially tight, then there’s no question that anything for a dollar is great value. If necessary, try and check if the cable works before leaving the store. This will save a trip back if it does turn out to be faulty.

You might get what you pay for, but paying so little makes that a little bit easier.

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Samsung Rugby 4 Review https://mraberthon.com/samsung-rugby-4-review/ https://mraberthon.com/samsung-rugby-4-review/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 16:00:02 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13310 Join us as we review a reliable, durable and awesome phone, the Rugby 4. Yes, the first thing you'll notice is that it's a flip phone, yet would you even notice that when you hear of all the things it can do? It has advantages over what even some smartphones can do. So join in the fun and read what it's all about.

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Samsung is the genuine king of smartphones. It’s easy to forget, however, how many other models they actually produce. Aside for the Galaxy S and associated models like the J, the company actually release all kinds of phones to suit all budgets.

Among the wider range, is the Rugby series. Acknowledging that mobile phones are, let’s face it, fragile things, the Rugby range is a beefier, better protected device.

“The Samsung Rugby 4 is one the only mobile devices in the past few years to have truly reached cult status,” says John Harrin the phone-trends expert from Mr Aberthon. “It’s a rare breed that seems not to have even reached its half-life yet.”

Overall Score for the Rugby 4

Man holding Closed Rugby 4 in Hand

Our phone reviewing experts give the Samsung Rugby 4 a score of 9/10 (or a 4.5/5). It may be surprising to see such an old phone ranking so high, but our score is based on the needs of the consumers who would want the Rugby 4.

We believe that someone who wants a rugged workman-phone will genuinely love this phone. This Rugby 4 Review is based on the following criteria:

  • Price (5/5)
  • Durability and Ruggedness (5/5)
  • Phone design (4.5/5)
  • Hardware and Camera (4.25/5)
  • Internal Software (4.25/5)
  • Availability within Market (4/5)

The types of people who will want/need a Samsung Rugby 4:

  • Anyone in the construction industry and needs a rugged cellular device
  • The young or elderly. Someone who wants a simple phone and wouldn’t enjoy a complex smartphone
  • Anyone who bought the original Rugby 4 when it first came out and doesn’t want to relearn a new phone
  • Someone wants a quality rugged flip phone

Rugby 4 Pricing

Rugby 4 Close up Shot

Unfortunately, the Rugby 4 is not easy to find anymore. It was a limited production phone when it first came out and even during its peak it wasn’t available at all vendors. It has been discontinued for sale by its original vendors (At&t and T-mobile) although it obviously is still works perfectly on all GSM networks.

For the above reason, the Rugby 4 is hard to buy. The only place to get it will be on Amazon, eBay and Mr Aberthon (that’s us).

This phone is not for everyone. Those who need it, love it. And those that loved it, will unlikely move onto any other phone. Finding the phone is hard and the

  • The cost a brand-new and unlocked Rugby 4 will be approximately $200 (assuming that you can find a genuine brand new device!).
  • The Rugby 4 in like-new condition (Grade A) and unlocked will cost about $120 (Mr Aberthon currently has Grade A Unlocked Rugby 4 for a limited time at $89). The advantage of buying from Mr Aberthon will be our incredible money-back warranty. Please note: Even if do find a Rugby 4 in Brand New condition for a good price, it will have been sitting on a shelf for at least 3-4 years. If you buy any Rugby 4 without an incredible warranty, you are looking for trouble!
  • A locked AT&T Rugby 4 will cost approximately $80 – $100. Even if you currently have a plan with AT&T, we don’t recommend getting a locked phone for the following reasons: You may want to change plans later on, you may want to sell the phone later and get more money, you may want to use your phone overseas, or you may want to gift the phone to someone on another plan.
  • Buying broken Rugby 4 for parts is relatively cheap on eBay. You can probably buy a broken Rugby 4 for $30-$40.

Understanding the Rugby Series

Side Angle of the Rugby 4

When any cell phone is toughened-up, it is said to be rugged. When Samsung wanted to create a line of rugged phones, they chose a sport that is renown for its toughness. That’s the simple origin of the Rugby Series.

Right from the time of the original Rugby 1, the range has been a massive success. Suddenly, phones could go into situations in which they would previously have been likely to suffer damage. Environments which would routinely destroy cell phones suddenly stopped being no-go areas.

Here are the phones in the USA Samsung Rugby Lineup:

  • Original Samsung Rugby
  • The Samsung Rugby 2
  • Samsung Rugby Smart
  • Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro
  • The Samsung Rugby 3
  • The Samsung Rugby 4 (Released October 2014)

How Rugged is the Rugby 4?

Workman using rugby 4 while on construction

We rank the Rugby 4 as a 5/5 for overall ruggedness.

If you’ve been paying attention in the last 3 or 4 years, you’ll have noticed something. More and more phones, and smartphones in particular have been boasting about being IP67 or IP68 compliant. What they don’t do is tell you what those mean.

In a nut shell, the IP stands for “Ingress Protection” or, in plain language, how protected the phone is from dust and water getting inside. The 6 indicates that it has maximum protection from dust, down to very fine particles. Finally, the 7 and 8 show how good it is at keeping water out. A 7 means that it will survive 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, and an 8 means it will withstand 6 feet of water for the same period.

The Rugby 4 is IP67, so it has decent protection. But it has more. It also boasts MIL-STD 810G compliance. The MIL-STD stands for Military Standard, and the 810G is the level of testing the device has withstood. As you might expect, all products used by the US military have to achieve a standard of workmanship and suitability for purpose. These would include everything from waterproofing up to withstanding a direct hit from a bullet.

The Rugby 4 hasn’t been tested to that level, of course, but it has been tested on a lot of things. Chemical and shock resistance, thermal shock, fungus, humidity, salt, extreme vibration and more.

Crucially, and probably one of the most important things from a  cell phone point of view, it can withstand drops from 6 feet onto hard surfaces. Try dropping an iPhone from that height, and you’ll almost certainly be writing it off. Does that mean the Rugby 4 is indestructible? Not exactly, but it does offer a massive upgrade in confidence that it can survive normal life and lots more.

The Rugby 4 Design

Rugby Devices 4 Views

As you saw above, we have deemed the Rugby 4 as a 9/10 for design.

It is important to note, as noted above, that this score is ranked towards a person who wants the nice services that the Rugby 4 provides. Of course, we aren’t ranking the design against the Note 9. That would be comparing apples and oranges.

Okay, so we can see that the Rugby 4 is tough, but that’s no good if it’s a terrible cell phone. So let’s take a closer look to see where it stands up and where it might fall down.

Design Pros:

  • Clam-shell or flip design. This automatically offers more protection to various elements, not least the display.
  • There is plenty of space to touch the buttons
  • An outer speakerphone (very practical for working)
  • The Rugby 4 feels solid in the hand, whether open or closed, and yet doesn’t feel especially heavy, considering its tough credentials. In fact, at 5oz, it’s nearly an ounce lighter than the average smartphone
  • The sides have easy gripping wedges

Design Cons:

  • If you looking to impress, this phone is rather dull in overall appearance
  • The screw at the back should be black and not shiny metal

We can’t, hand on heart, say it’s a “sexy” looking phone, because it isn’t. It does look pretty smart, though, as flip phones go. The extra padded protection around the edges of the case do add a certain texture that looks and feels pretty good. The back also has a textured finish so it can be easy to grip, even when wearing gloves.

Open the phone up and you will see big, clear number keys, and a Home button which can easily be found blind. This is thanks to the large, again textured, direction pad which surrounds it.

The Hardware Specifications

Open Rugby 4 in Action

The 2.4″ display of the Rugby 4 is small by the standards of full screen smartphones, but is quite adequate by flip phone standards. The secondary display, which remains visible when the phone is closed, is 1.3″. Again, this is pretty standard for the format.

Resolution isn’t the best at 240px x 320px, but it still looks bright and clear, with good colors on show.

The 3MP camera can also record video @15fps. Again, this will not compete with modern smartphones but then it probably isn’t meant to. The point of the Rugby 4 is that it is for people who really need a phone, and a tough one at that. It’s also for those who need a phone, but would find a camera useful from time to time. It’s also, of course, for those who risk a broken phone every time they get out of bed.

Internal Display 2.4″, 240 x 320 pixels
External Display 1.3″, 128 x 128 pixels
Memory 256 MB and 128 MB RAM – External memory up to 32 GB (microSD)
Battery 1300 mAh – Talk Time: Up to 14 hours – Standby Time: Up to 22.9 days
Camera & Video 3.0 MP fixed focus camera with 2x digital zoom
Video recording (QVGA@15fps)
Dimensions 148 grams
10.8 x 5.6 x 2.2 cm
Network & Connectivity UMTS 850/1900/2100
GSM 850/900/1800/1900
A-GPS (SUPL 2.0)
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/r
Bluetooth 3.0

The keypad feels excellent under use. Gloves are the enemy of the cell phone, and it’s good that Samsung have recognized this. It hasn’t taken huge changes, just some minor but well thought ones.

The battery is a very good 1300mAh and has wireless charging. Given that iPhones didn’t have this until very recently, this is a very big deal in a flip phone. It also has NFC, for moving data to another device or for contact-less payments in stores. A Micro SD card slot has also somehow found it’s way into the amazingly compact size, which is a fantastic addition.

All in all, it’s hard to fault the Rugby 4 on build and hardware. Samsung have somehow managed to straddle the simple/smart phone worlds perfectly.

Camera Quality and Functionality

As mentioned before, the camera on the Rugby 4 is nothing to get excited about. It’s simple and it works, but that’s where its praise ends.

If you want to take a few pictures for documentation or for memory purposes, the camera is ideal. Social pictures won’t be horrible, but the quality won’t hold a light to the modern Samsung smartphones that are now on the market.

Technically speaking, the camera can shoot 3-Megapixels, but in our experience the camera still isn’t good enough to be considered on the spectrum of impressive.

In short, if you need a phone with a high-quality camera, the Samsung Rugby isn’t a good idea for you.

We will soon upload pictures to understand the quality of photos that were taken on the Rugby 4.

The Software

Lots of coding words on a black background, in a computer

The Rugby 4 runs Samsung’s own proprietary operating system. This means no app store, but they have included some essential features. Email and web browsing are here, and the phone is 4G ready. Any browsing or emailing you do will, therefore, be at the second-best available speeds.

There’s a dedicated GPS button for turn by turn navigation. Bluetooth is present for use with in car systems or external speakers, and wi-fi is here for the first time in the Rugby range.

Because the Rugby 4 is meant for tough work environments, there’s also a Push To Talk button. Push To Talk, or PTT, allows the creation of a small, local wi-fi network. This then lets other PTT devices in range to work like a walkie talkie system. This is an incredibly useful feature, and well done to Samsung for including it.

The Rugby 4 Competitors

Interestingly enough, the Rugby 4 doesn’t have many true competitors in the market. As John said above, the cult status of the Rugby 4 doesn’t really lend itself to competitors. Those who love the Rugby 4 (or Rugby 3) will not be pleased with any other phone aside for the Rugby 4. No amount of convincing will make any difference. They know the phone and they love the phone. And that is that.

That being said, there are a few phones on the market that are fantastic competitors for someone who is interested in branching out.

Kyocera DuraXe – The Kyocera DuraXe is probably the strongest crossover phone for the Rugby 4. It is just as sturdy. The design is similar. Battery and internal storage is a lot better. It’s a little heavier but not by enough to truly notice.

It’s a rugged phone and so obviously Mr Aberthon carry it their store. The price for a Brand New Duraxe is $149.

For a full comparison between the Rugby 4 and the Kyocera, click here.

Samsung Rugby 3 – This competitor is the most natural competition for the Rugby 4. It is the earlier edition of the Rugby Series. Surprisingly enough, there are some customers who swear by the Rugby 3 and won’t touch the Rugby 4. Go figure. They got used to the Rugby 3, loved it, and won’t look back. There are also a few features that are in Rugby 3 that they didn’t continue with the Rugby 4. The Rugby 4, however, is far superior to the Rugby 4.

Mr Aberthon has the Rugby 3 in stock. Click here to purchase a Brand New Rugby 3 for $129.

Cat 60 – The Cat 60 and the Rugby 4 are worlds apart. We have included the Caterpillar 60 in this list because it is the king of rugged phones and therefor deserves to be mentioned. It is in a completely different league as the Rugby 4 but if someone was interested in upgrading to a higher-quality rugged smartphone, this would be the top choice. Like the Rugby 4, it’s simple and uncomplicated, but unlike the Rugby 4, it is very expensive for a rugged phone.

Mr Aberthon have a licensing agreement with the Caterpillar Company and we sell the Brand New Cat 60 for only $629.

Conclusion

Front View of Rugby 4 being held

In all honesty, it’s hard to fault the Rugby 4 for what it is. Yes, you can point to it not being Android and not having an available app store, but that would be defeating the object. You can also point to it looking rugged and, therefore, functional. But it really isn’t meant to be in competition with an iPhone or a Galaxy S. It’s a phone that is there to be used and even, on occasion, abused.

With that in mind, and for a price that barely buys a good dinner for two, it’s impossible to fault. To buy the Unlocked Rugby 4 from Mr Aberthon, click here.

If you have any questions or comments about our Samsung Rugby 4 Review, feel free to ask in the comments below. We have technology experts who check our blogs daily.

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Kyocera DuraXE Review https://mraberthon.com/kyocera-duraxe-review/ https://mraberthon.com/kyocera-duraxe-review/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 16:00:01 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13318 Want a cell phone that you don't need to watch like a newborn baby, and furthermore, one that you can push to its limit? Read up all about the Kyocera DureXE, a rugged and awesome device.

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It’s easy to get lost in the big names when it comes to smartphones, ignoring those that do it just as well. One of those who don’t get enough credit is Kyocera. The Japanese maker found its way into smartphones on a pretty convoluted route. They already owned companies capable of producing components for phones, but bought Sanyo Mobile in 2008. Sanyo had a good pedigree in cell phone innovation up to that point, but had been overtaken by the likes of Samsung and Motorola.

In order to gain a footing in the market, Kyocera produce a range of phones to suit all prices. As part of that range, they produce the DuraXE, a tougher-than average cell phone.

Build and Looks

Construction Site building a building from wooden frame with a tractor

As a flip phone (clamshell), it would be easy to dismiss the DuraXe as something functional and dull. Fortunately, though, it’s a lot better looking than that. Okay, so it’s never going to look as good as a smartphone with a wraparound display but, as flip phones go, it’s hard to beat.

The case is a special rubber which Kyocera call Dura-Grip. As well as reinforcins, it is non-slip, even when wearing gloves. The case contributes a lot to the DuraXE going way beyond the protection you’d expect a maker to build in to their devices. As well as being IP68 compliant, which offers both water and dust protection, the DuraXE also complies to MIL-STD 810G.

The Military Standard 810G demonstrates protection from shock, vibration, thermal shock, pressure, solar radiation, salt fog and more. Some smartphones are starting to include some of these protections, but few have this many.

All in all, it’s hard to fault what Kyocera have done when putting he DuraXE together. It feels good and solid, the Dura-Grip seems to work very well, and we can’t see why the phone isn’t one of the toughest we’ve tested.

At 4.21 x 2.22 x 0.99 inches, and weighing just 6oz, it’s small enough for even gloved hands, and feels very solid in use.

Hardware

Pile of Hardware parts

The processor is a pretty decent 1.1 ghz Quad Core affair. It may sound lightweight by today’s smartphone standards, but the DuraXE isn’t running a complex OS or designed for movies and gaming. That makes the CPU plenty powerful enough to keep things moving more than fast enough. There’s never a sense of lag or delay, and menus load quickly.

The front display is a low-res screen, intended for notifications, the time, and not much more. It is, though, clear and easily readable. The inside display is protected until the phone is opened, and is a 2.6″ color screen. There’s no touchscreen here, but the menus are simple enough, so navigation is easy and quick.

4G ready, with Bluetooth 4.1, wifi 802.11 n and GPS means there’s nothing lacking in the comms department.

There is a generous 8GB of storage, with the option to add a further 32GB via the Micro SD card slot.

Camera

The point of a phone like the DuraXE is not to take endless selfies of videos. But, nonetheless, it’s nice to have a decent enough camera. Fortunately, although not groundbreaking, the 5MP camera here does a good enough job. If you need photos for your job, then it is perfectly adequate. The quality is good, and you should have plenty of storage room.

Video capture is available at 720p HD, which is a welcome bonus. All too often, video quality is not a priority in flip phones. It’s good that Kyocera recognize the necessity in certain work environments for good video recordings.

Battery

Zoomed in on a pile of AA batteries

Again, by flip phone standards, the battery is a generous 1500mAh. Because there’s no social media syncing or heavy duty display, the battery is good enough for over 9hrs talktime or 16 days standby.

Other

As confirmation that Kyocera intend for the DuraXE to be a phone for tough work environments, there are one or two less common features.

Push-To-Talk is a feature where a dedicated button can make the phone behave in walkie-talkie mode. More PTT phones are required for this to work, and there may be charges from your provider, but it’s a great feature. It’s especially useful for those in noisy environments. The DuraXE speakers are incredibly loud, fortunately. So loud that it will take some serious background noise to beat them. In testing, the audio output from the DuraXE is at least equivalent to heavy-duty radios built for the purpose.

Safety

Person dressed in full protective gear opening bottles of chemicals

As well as being pretty tough, the DuraXE has safety features built in. Any electronic device creates a spark with even the smallest action. Every time you press a button, the action creates a small charge which can lead to a spark. Put most phones into a highly flammable situation, with fumes or gases, and a single key-press could be fatal. The DuraXE is for use in environments where such substances wouldn’t normally be present, but which may occur.

This is vital in industries where getting help may be a matter of life or death.

Summary

All in all, the Kyocera DuraXE is an impressive cell phone. Its not a smartphone but that isn’t the intention. But that doesn’t mean it lacks for any features which will be useful. It is for people who work in tough environment which, ordinarily, would kill phones within days or weeks. It’s also an alternative for those who need their phones to be just that bit tougher.

Ordinarily, such tough phones would be out of range of the average user’s pocket. Not the DuraXE, though, Because Kyocera want to appeal to all markets, they have a policy of high-quality phones at budget prices. Given what the DuraXE is equipped with, it shouldn’t be available at such a low price. It is, though, so don’t be afraid of nabbing a real bargain.

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Can 911 Track Your Cellphone? https://mraberthon.com/can-911-track-your-cellphone/ https://mraberthon.com/can-911-track-your-cellphone/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 16:00:15 +0000 https://mraberthon.com/?p=13026 Tune in to our blog post and find out how 911 would or wouldn't be able to track us if the need were to arise. There are multiple aspects to consider when researching into the topic, and here we have covered the ground for you.

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We’ve all seen it on TV and in movies. A call is made to the police from the bad guy, and they try and keep him on the line long enough to trace the call. There are two issues with this. Firstly, it takes a split second to locate a call that isn’t somehow being deliberately re-routed. Secondly, none of the bad guys ever seem to own a cellphone.

But, if you did call 911 from a cellphone, would the operator know where you are if you can’t speak? The short, and slightly disappointing answer is, no, they wouldn’t. Well, not really.

Location, Location, Location

Back in the early days of mobile phones, lots of people couldn’t get the hang of always using the area code of a phone number. After all, if they were calling the Domino’s up the street from their landline, they didn’t need to. The problem, of course, is that the cell phone is, by nature, a mobile entity. It might not always know what your local area code is. If you are on the edge of one area, the signal may flip back and forth to cell towers on either side of the line. For that reason, we always have to include an area code, even if we’re only calling next door.

In terms of locating a cellphone, it isn’t like locating a landline. A landline is a fixed, physical wire which never moves. For that reason, the phone on the end of it will always have the same number. It will also always be at the same location. Phone companies keep records of which number terminates at which address. In simple terms, this is the phone book. Even if you are not listed in the phone book, the phone company still knows where you are. This information is made available to law enforcement, so tracing a landline call is really quick and easy. Cellphones, though, aren’t so straightforward.

Location marker on a map

Cellphone Locations

Imagine that you’re driving along the freeway doing a very legal 55mph. Someone (not you) is using a cellphone. This means the cellphone is also doing 55mph, and taking the call connection with it. Within a minute or two, you have driven past 3 cell towers, and the call has been transferred to each one seamlessly. No problem so far. But what if you’re being kidnapped, and in the trunk of the car? Dialling 911 is the best idea, but how will they know where you are? By the time they have your signal traced, you can be a mile up the road.

When 911 operators do need a location for a cellphone, they use mast triangulation. At any one time, your phone signal is bouncing off 3 network masts. Law enforcement software is able to establish a rough position based on the distance from each of the masts. This location is surprisingly accurate, and might be correct to within about 200 feet. It is also usually available to the dispatcher in a few seconds. But is that enough? Well, if you’re in the middle of a field, it probably is. Otherwise, it might not be quite so helpful.

An apartment block might be 10 storeys or more high. Triangulation will indicate that you’re in the building, but there’s no way of knowing which floor you might be on. Even in a residential street, 200 feet might include several separate buildings.

Skyline of skyscrappers

Second Tier Locations

There is a higher level of accuracy available for cellphone locations. Unfortunately, these details are only available to the phone carrier. They do respond quickly to requests from law enforcement, but it still takes valuable time to make the request and receive the information. The more accurate location is achieved by “pinging” the cellphone. This is where a simple signal is sent to the phone, and the phone automatically responds to say where it is. Again, environment and terrain will have a big say in exactly how accurate this second tier location actually is.

What About GPS?

It’s a good question. Those phones which can transmit a GPS location, do so automatically to the mast when a call is connected. The problem is that fewer than 70% of cellphones in use in the US are either able to do so, or that the carrier being used can’t utilize the information well enough. The FCC and the carriers are working towards a solution, but 100% coverage is a long way off.

In addition, not all counties have the ability to show the position on a map, and still rely on the caller to provide a location. This, as you can imagine, is less than ideal.

But It’s 2018!

Yes it is. And when a free app can tell one person where another is, instantly and in real time, why is the 911 system so far behind in the technology it uses? One problem is that, despite the FCC being a federal – and therefore nationwide – body which regulates such things, it isn’t enough. States, and even counties, still have a lot of autonomy in deciding on the equipment they use. Rural areas simply can’t afford to be spending half a year’s budget on a single location system, for example. And so, they don’t.

Police Car Driving down the road

The bottom line is that, until regulation both unifies the systems used, and compels counties to use them, not much will really change. If that means public money being invested from the federal government, then that’s what needs to happen.

Until then, if you do need to call 911 and you’re not at an address you know, there are still things you can do. Look for any markers or potential points of interest. Street names, stores, statues or other monuments will all help. Anything, basically, which might give the 911 dispatcher some help in identifying your position. More and more 911 call centers are able to receive texts. Learn how to use your phone to send your GPS location by text, and put it on your home screen. It might just save your life.

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