[Review] Coming soon – Moto 360 review

I was lucky enough to lay hands on a Moto 360 a few weeks ago and I’ll have a review up soon.  For those that have one (and even those that don’t) I’ve always been of the opinion that wearable tech is the direction we are all going, so why not hop aboard?  I know Sean doesn’t necessarily agree with me on this point, but that’s the beauty of having TWO tech geeks.  😉

More info on my time with the Moto 360 smartwatch soon!

[Review] Final thoughts on the G3

As you’ve probably already read (and, if by chance you haven’t, you can catch up here on my 10 days with the G3) I’ve been using the latest flagship from LG as my new daily driver mobile phone.  I’ve really got nothing but great things to say about it, and to sum it all up, if you are in the market for a new smartphone, you should give the G3 a long look.
Having said that, I wanted to offer up a few final thoughts on the G3, especially for those who are ready to make the plunge and buy a new device soon.

I wanted the G3 because it really improved upon a great phone from 2013, the G2 from LG by fixing a few things and changing a few others.  Plus, why not get a new smartphone every 6 months, amiright?  Anyway, here are 5 additional thoughts to consider about the G3 as part of my review.

  • The size and button configuration are going to be the only major roadblocks:  While LG did an amazing (some might say magical) job of putting a 5.5″ QHD display in as small a form factor as they could, this is still a big device.  Part of the “magicalness” of LG’s design puts the lock/vol up/vol down buttons on the rear of the phone, which does seem more intuitive, but only after you’ve used it for a while.  If you are a fan of larger display smartphones, this should be high on your list (along with the soon to be released Galaxy Note 4, due out next month) – its sporting a bigger display than its main rivals the Galaxy S5 (at 5.1″) and the HTC One M8 (at 5″) but its roughly the same footprint as both.
  • The QHD (1440p) display is amazing, but there really isn’t a use for it (for now):  The display is one of the best out there in terms of sharpness and clarity – it’s not as bright as an AMOLED screeen (like the Galaxy S5) or some would say as accurate in color reproduction as other 1080p LCD panels (such as the HTC One M8) but it really is near the top in terms of viewing tech.  However, there really isn’t much content out there to take advantage of the full power of this display, and probably won’t be for at least until 2015.  While QHD is the direction most content production is going, we aren’t quite there just yet.  So could you get by with a smartphone with “only” a 1080p display?  Sure.
  • LG’s new software setup is almost good enough to let it ride as is (almost):  Everyone knows that the Two Tech Geeks are into the tinkering and the modding of just about every little detail of their phones. And on the G2, to remove both the hideous amount of bloatware and remove the almost comical icons, buttons, and other built in systems settings, I flashed a brand new custom ROM and put a new launcher on it as well (I personally prefer Nova Launcher myself) – LG not only listened to their customers issues with their hardware, but with their software as well.  The new LG UI is lighter, less comic and more muted/earthtone-y, and features more intuitive and user friendly options.  Now, for me, that’s still not enough, and back on the G3 goes Nova Launcher – but for those new to Android or looking to upgrade from an existing phone, I think you’ll find the stock software to be very cool and work in every way that you would expect it to. 
  • You never know how handy a removable back and battery are – until you need them:  I’ve owned many (many) smartphones, and the only one that didn’t have a removable battery was the G2.  Thanks to its impressive performance and terrific battery life, I never really needed to swap one out.  But when one tinkers around with tech, occasionally one may have a need to do the proverbial “battery pull.”  When you don’t have a way to do this…it can be a little scary at first.  I found ways around it with my G2…but I’m really glad that my G3 has it.  Even if the battery life is surprising good (which it is) there is some comfort in knowing that I have the ability to swap out batteries on an as-needed basis, whether its for charging purposes, or due to technical difficulties (including those I cause myself)
  • Laser auto focus on a smartphone sounds like a gimmick – but it really works:  I’ve said in my earlier review that the G3 camera was merely “as good” as the G2’s; for the most part, in terms of image quality, I stand by this.  But after using the camera on the G3 more and more over the last few weeks I can tell you one thing – its a heck of a lot easier to use than the camera on the G2.  The laser auto focus is fast and correct, and LG’s new camera UI literally takes point and shoot to a whole new level.  The old saying goes “the best camera is the one you have with you” and the speed and clarity with which the G3 takes photos is a huge plus.  Bonus point – the vol down button comes pre-set with a long press (even with the screen off) to launch the camera.  This makes capturing those spur of the moment pics that much easier, and consequently, more rewarding.
So there you have it folks – my final thoughts on the LG G3.  Now, keep in mind as with any time of the year, there are always new phones just about to be released right around the corner – the Galaxy Note 4, the rumored Nexus phone, and even the iPhone 6.  So keep that in mind if you are considering the G3 too.  But if you have any specific questions or anything else you’d like for me to test or answer, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to get you what you’re looking for.

[Review] 10 days with LG’s newest flagship – the G3

While I’m not ready to give my full review of the “latest and greatest” Android flagship to hit the market, I have spent 10 days now with the G3 as my daily driver.  So what you will be getting in this installment from the Two Tech Geeks is more like a first impressions and mini-review, with a little more in depth info to follow in the coming days.  But for now, sit down and hold on – you are about to be taken for a ride by one of the most powerful Android devices to hit all the major carriers in some time.

I’m gonna try something new: in the past, you’ve gotten a chance to hear my thoughts on how new devices we’ve reviewed Look, Feel, and Work.  Sometimes that’s not good enough to describe all the things I like (or don’t like) about a particular device, so I’m going to try a more expansive thumbs scale – each of the Two Tech Geeks have two thumbs, so I’ll have essentially 5 points to give:  2 (geek) thumbs up, 1 thumb up, no thumbs, 1 thumb down, or (the worst of all possible worlds) 2 thumbs down.  If you stuck with me this far, then good on you.  So let’s dive in:

2 Thumbs Up

The specs are cutting edge for mid year 2014, with the G3 sporting a Snapdragon 801 processor, Adreno 330 GPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and an astonishing Quad HD 5.5″ display (2560×1440) – just for fun LG tossed in a 3000mah battery and an external micro SD card reader supporting sizes up to 128GB.   Its almost like someone at LG said “what does everyone say the superphone of the future should have?” and then went and put all the replies into one device.  Needless to say, this thing is a monster.  The display boasts amongst the highest ppi count of any device on the market, and has an almost unnatural sharpness with text to it.  Several other sites have commented on this “artificial sharpening” effect in greater detail, but suffice it to say you wont miss any detail of anything that’s viewed on this screen.  

Improvements to the internal specs weren’t the only upgrades LG did.  Most folks biggest gripe with the back of the G2 was the way the polycarbonate picked up fingerprints and oils like a magnet.  The metallic skin on the back of the G3 corrects this problem, and the so-called “floating arc” curve to the back makes for a much more pleasant user experience.  And even though it is a fair bit larger than the G2, LG did an amazing job of jamming this 5.5″ display into a form factor not much bigger than the Galaxy S5.
 1 Thumb Up
*Battery Life
*Overall Size

The battery life of a necessity took a hit coming from the G2.  The battery capacity is the same from G2 to G3 (3000mah) and even the optimization of the S801 can’t help the sheer size and pixel count of the G3’s display.  Now, this doesn’t mean the G3 gets terrible battery life; in fact, far from it.  Its in the “almost but not quite as good” as the G2, but all but the hungriest power users will get a full day off of one charge, and still have juice left before throwing it back on the charger.  I’m typically seeing between 4-5 hours of screen on time and usually 16-18 hours off of one charge, which is slightly less than the G2 but still well into the “very acceptable” territory for battery life of a flagship phone.  Especially one where you are getting an upgrade in most ways from the G2.
Overall size of the G3 is impressive based on the screen to size ratio, with it comparing favorably to the Galaxy S5 in footprint, even though the S5 bears with it only a 5.1″ display.  It IS big, don’t get me wrong, and its more of a 2 handed device than a 1 handed.  This may turn off some folks, and there is a segment of the market that won’t go above a 5 inch display in their phone.  Still, there is a demand for large screen “phablet” phones and if you are one of these, the G3 might be right up your alley.  The camera is excellent, and compares favorably to the G2, but it isn’t an upgrade really, and the OIS+ is impressive but benefits video takers mostly, not still shooters.  It garners only one thumb up for being only “just as good” when so many other things about the G3 are better than its predecessor.
I would move on to the no thumbs and thumbs down, but honestly, there really aren’t any other things to dislike here.  Things like keys on the back of the device, laser auto focus, and colors available are all personal preference items, or items that are mostly irrelevant to how well the G3 does what it does.  It’s available on all 4 major carriers and should honestly be a strong candidate for “Smartphone of the Year – 2014.”  I will take a more detailed look at how the G3 does what it does in the days to come.  Anyone who isn’t put off by the footprint, size, and form factor should absolutely be impressed by LG’s G3, and I encourage everyone to check it out.   Cheers!

[Review] The iPhone 5S (from an Android users point of view)

As an Android enthusiast, I constantly hear the strident call of those on the other side of the smartphone debate that I am “wrong” for bashing the iPhone and, along with it, iOS.  And I am happy to defend from all comers the Android platform and what I perceive as its superiority.  So it came as a great blow to my personal belief system when my daytime employer suddenly was to provide me with an iPhone 5S as my work phone.  This was to replace my trusty Blackberry which (let’s face it) was dying a slow hideous death.  So grudgingly, I accepted my new tech, and thought this would be an ideal chance for me to give it and Apple fan boys everywhere a fair shake by spending a weekend getting to know the “real” Apple.  Will I be converted?  Will my passion for all things Android taint my desire to use the 5S at all?  Read on to find out!

I’m not opposed to Apple products in general – as you can see here I actually am quite fond of some of them.  I just also happen to believe that Android smartphones in general are superior.  But you came here to read my take on the iPhone 5S, not defend myself as a reviewer.  So, let’s get started…

How It Looks:

One of the areas the iPhone 5/5S shines is in terms of hardware and aesthetic appeal.  You can read here how both of the Two Tech Geeks agree:  the hardware design of the iPhone’s latest version of itself is well designed and crafted.  The 5S is identical in terms of hardware to the reviewed iPhone 5 and its incredibly thin, light, and premium looking.  The screen is sharp, bright, and clear, and sports impressive viewing angles.  Its not the largest or brightest panel on the market any longer, as many Android smartphone makers have moved well beyond the iPhone’s 4” display size.  The symmetry of the design show that the folks Apple have making their handset and overseeing the quality control are doing a bang up job.
Coming from a Blackberry device, its leaps and bounds better.  But if you are like me and also have a current generation Android device to compare the iPhone 5S to the LG G2 the iPhone tends to look small and outdated however.  If I put my current personal phone next to my current work phone, I doubt someone who is was truly objective would pick the smaller, not as bright, not as large display device.  The G2 makes the iPhone look small…not the other way around.

How It Feels:

Apple has spent quite of bit of time and money in developing an iPhone that will feel in hand as good as it looks.  And the iPhone 5S accomplishes this mission quite well.  Picking it up and holding it for text messages, phone calls, or web surfing screams “premium device” to anyone who will listen.  The rounded corers and thin profile mated with an aluminum and glass finish give it a universal appeal, and one can test this theory of how well people like it by merely looking around.  I was waiting in a doctors office lobby the other morning and noticed that the other 3 people in the room with me were all on their iPhones while waiting.  You don’t sell millions and millions of high end (and expensive) devices by having a phone that is bad looking or uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time.
Once again, in a battle royale with my old Blackberry device, the iPhone blows it out of the water.  But also once again, when compared to the latest generation of Android handsets (and the LG G2 in particular) the iPhone feels small and cramped.  I dislike typing on it since the keyboard seems smashed into a tiny width and the narrow and tall portrait screen aren’t ideal for viewing most any kind of media, such as web pages or video content.  Yeah, I can turn it from portrait to landscape, but I can do the same on the G2, and the G2 will still win.  Listen – bigger is bigger, and in the mobile device space, bigger > smaller every time.  One of the reasons I left my Droid Incredible for the Galaxy Nexus was screen size…and I then left the Galaxy Nexus for the G2 for (wait for it) screen size.  The iPhone 5S feels great…but I still don’t want to use it for those things I can do on my G2 without squinting.

How It Works:

The iPhone mantra “it just works.”  I can ask anyone with an iPhone and they will give me the same answer.  Looking at various Apple related message boards I can continually see something similar repeated over and over and over again:  trust iOS to manage your phone for you, because it just works.  Coming from the open source Android platform makes this probably the single most difficult experience of my life.  Its all a matter of what you’re used to.  And I’m certainly not used to letting the phone run me; in fact, quite the opposite.
But I digress.  My own foibles aside, the iPhone does work, after a fashion.  While tied to my corporate e-mail and such, I can send and receive message easily, if somewhat obnoxiously (see my not really thrilled reaction to the iOS 7 update here)  I can organize the home screen, minus any widgets of course since they don’t exist in iOS.  I can move icons around but can’t put them in anything other than lined up order.  No icons in just the 4 corners of the screen for you!  Many of the features and inner functions of iOS seem counter-intuitive to a long time Android user, and the lack of a “back” button is mildly annoying about 43 times a day.  The single home button of the iPhone 5S does serve not only double but triple and quadruple duty – starting with taking you home, and continuing through recently opened apps, Touch ID (by far and away my favorite iPhone 5S feature, more on this in a moment) and simply firing up the screen when its turned off.  Ironically, with more screen real estate, Android devices have more room for multiple on screen keys, and thus eliminate the need for a “home button” and also eliminating the incredibly large bottom bezel that comes with it.  Apple (much like Samsung in this respect) is loathe to give up on this legacy button since its SO much a part of how their OS works.  While it can’t justify its own existence with merely software usage, it certainly can with its major hardware function:  Touch ID.
Touch ID deserves its own break out paragraph, so here it is.  This might be the single greatest and most useful hardware innovation to go into a mobile device in years.  Instead of incorporating a mobile payment service that’s not widely adopted yet or wireless charging (another personal favorite of mine) Apple instead went with an idea that is simple to discuss and has been incredibly difficult for any other hardware OEM to get right (yes I’m looking at you HTC).  Touch ID scans your fingerprint, or multiple fingers, and retains the image to allow you to unlock the phone with a single press.  This is the ID system we’ve all been waiting for.  While it might be more elegant to have it integrated into the display (and reduce the bezel issue in the iPhone) the Touch ID panel in the home button, to coin a phrase, just works.  You can also use this Touch ID system in lieu of passwords to make purchase in the App Store and iTunes.  In case you missed it before, this thing is really, really good.
iOS 7 drives very good hardware, but in my opinion the legacy of iOS as an operating system is increasingly getting left behind by a constant stream of updates and revisions that Android has undergone.  Kit Kat, Android’s latest iteration, is not as far behind as it was when Android was first compared to iOS, and many of iOS’s best features are those that have been ported from Android.  Bright colors and nice animations are fun, but if they don’t add any additional functionality then they don’t do anything for me.  The lack of simple things like widgets is still mindboggling in the 7th version of Apple’s operating system, and one can only wonder what kind of creativity might come from having a developer community as ardent for Apple as the one that exists for Android.  Open source does have some advantages…no matter what its drawbacks.  And while Apple had managed to do some great things in the past – the present and future currently belong to the largest mobile operating system in the world.

Final thoughts:

In comparing the iPhone 5S to my previously Blackberry device, it’s a night and day change.  The old gold standard for corporate mobile devices pales when put up against the latest flagship from Apple.  Issues arise when comparing the 5S to the latest devices put out by Android however.  Screen size, battery life, and power/flexibility of the operating system are all categories that could be swung in favor of other mobile devices powered by Android.  Other than the Touch ID system, which is clearly superior to anything else out in the market from any OEM, there isn’t a real compelling reason to choose Apple’s 5S, unless you’ve already had an iPhone for many years and are invested in their ecosystem.
Rumors abound that Apple has in production a new, larger device to meet the demands of smartphone users in the United States.  The iPad mini was also born in response to a market that embraced the 7 inch Android tablet with great enthusiasm.  And this is the main issue with Apple recently – instead of making devices that are on the cutting edge, they are now adopting those features developed and produced on other platforms.  Where Apple once led the market in the smartphone innovation space, they are now behind – and are in danger of being left behind.

[Review] Beats by Dre Pill

While not a new device, and not technically a “smartdevice,” I did want to give my thoughts on the Pill wireless speaker from Beats by Dre. This was a recent gift and something I’d had high on my wishlist for a while now.  If you are in the market for something like this (or if you aren’t now, you may be soon) and want to know how it works, what it does, and whether its worth its $199 pricetag (on sale now for $179!), read on!

What in the world is this funky looking thing?  I’m glad you asked…Beats by Dre (the company owned and founded in part by hip hop legend Dr. Dre) has produced a wireless bluetooth speaker they have called (appropriately enough) the Pill.  It functions as a wireless speaker for your Android/iPod/iPhone device, to not only listen to music but also take and make phone calls too.  I own a pair of headphones from Beats by Dre and I love them, so when I wanted something small and portable to play music in multiple different locations (the park, the beach, random birthdays and bar mitzvahs), I gave this a look.  As I was to celebrate a recent birthday, this went on the wishlist and the wife delivered.  Lucky me!

How It Looks:  

It ain’t called the Pill for nothing.  It’s….well, shaped like a pill.  Oblong and oval, its very much like its namesake.  It comes in a variety of wild and outlandish colors, but I went with a staple in black.  The front is a grill which is broken up by a matte finish band, which houses the control buttons and the ever present Beats logo.  The logo lights up while in use, making it fun to use during day or night activities.
The backside is made up of more of this matte finish, and its got a little rubber “foot” that runs the length of the bottom, allowing it to remain steady on any flat surface.  From an aesthetic, it’s really, really cool looking.  I’m not going to lie – this is half of its appeal.  But beyond that, its smaller than you’d think, but this makes it very portable and easy to set up.  The USB charging cable plugs into the port on the back, and is surrounded by a colored LED that’s red when charging, and green when its fully charged.  Pretty nifty!

How It Feels:

Everything about this device says “solid.”  Its heavy when you first pick it up, and you “wow – this thing is well built.”  And it is.  Aside from the paint itself (which may or may not get chipped, depending on your usage) this device feels like it could take the day to day grind with ease.  The included carrying case is soft touch, black like the speaker itself, and completely encases the Pill during transport.  The only down side here is the case fits only the device, not the AC adapter or cable, meaning you got to lug those along separate from the speaker.  A minor quibble, but one that you’d want to be aware of before you take it to a party and leave the accessories behind because you forgot them.

How It Works:

I was looking for something small, portable, and that packed a solidly loud punch to be heard over large, empty spaces like outdoor parks, or even the inside of homes.  And the Pill certainly hits the marks for all these areas.  Its plenty loud, easy to transport, and sets up like a cinch.  Simply turn on the bluetooth connection for your phone/iPod, turn on the Pill, wait for the audio tone that indicates you are paired, and play music.  Its that simple.  The audio tones for the Pill can be a little unusual at first (especially when you first power on the device, its a little like an air raid siren going off) but once its up and running the quality of the music more than makes up for these little quirky things.  The sound is crips, mids and lows come through clean, and while the bass is noticeably missing from bass heavy tracks, its not gone altogether.  Hip hop and rap enthusiasts could feel like their favorite songs are missing that punch, which seems odd from a Beats branded device, but the overall quality of most other types of music is more than acceptable.  
I’ve used it with both my G2 and iPod touch, and have had great results with both.  I took it to the park on a day when we did an impromptu BBQ, and threw it up on a bench and got it going in under 1 minute.  The music was loud enough and clear enough for me to sing along with, even over the sounds of the general public, and when it was time to leave, I simply threw it in the outer pocket of my backpack and had music on the go while we walked back to the cars.  Bluetooth range can be spotty (mostly noticeable on my iPod after the upgrade to iOS 7, but after the initial pairing the range issues seemed to have mostly gone away.  My G2 plays both music and speakerphone calls (yes, you can use the Pill as a portable speakerphone) quite well, and my only beef is when streaming video to my phone and using the Pill as an external speak, the battery drain is quite significant (probably no real surprise)  The battery is rated at between 4-5 hours off a single charge, and while I’d say this was a little high, I got 3 hours easily off one charge.  Pretty good for its size.
Image courtesy of Beats by Dre

The Pill comes in a wide variety of colors to please almost any palate or interior decorator, a few of my favorites (aside from black) are the silver and neon green – eye catching design and colors make these winners in my book.

Image courtesy of Beats by Dre

The Final Word:

The Pill from Beats by Dre is exactly what I was looking for.  Its small, well built, plays a variety of music types loud and clear, can be used as an external audio device for just about anything with bluetooth, doubles as a speakerphone (for my spur of the moment business meetings) and while its not the cheapest device of its kind, won’t break your wallet either.  And the design touches make up for a bit of the cost in my opinion. There’s a link at the top, showing the Pill as of the time of this writing on sale for $179 – if you’ve been on the fence about this device, and/or didn’t know you needed one of these things until now, give the Pill a try. It might be just what the “doctor” ordered.  

[Review] LG G2 (or how I learned to love a superphone)

Image courtesy of Droid-Life

At long last – the search is over.  Many of you will recall that I lamented over the lack of phone choices to replace my Galaxy Nexus (see the article here ) but I lament no more!  I have taken the plunge and purchased the G2 from LG, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier.  What the heck? you may ask – as this device was on the short list of possibles and was discarded as being unsuitable for my needs.  Well – no one is happier to be proven wrong than me.  Let’s take a closer and more in depth look at how LG’s newest flagship smartphone won me over.

Where to begin?  I despaired of ever finding a new phone that would meet my (admittedly) high standards and needs…but after a string of curious events, I was pulled – nay – destined to purchase the G2.  In a nutshell, here’s how it went down:  several friends were also in the market for new phones, so Sean and I were constantly talking and then looking over the latest and greatest in the smartphone game.  One day, while out and about, one of these friends picked up an HTC One for a song – the short time I spent looking over the One pretty much sold me on it.  During this time, the good folks over at XDA Developers had found a way to (in essence) unlock the One to make it rootable and also flash custom ROMs to it (one of my requisites)  The only thing that held me up was I really, really wanted it in black.  So I waited…during this time a quick side trip to a Verizon store after the G2s release really had me drooling over its beautiful screen and quad-core power – it was at that point that I hoped the G2 would get some development ported to it.  About a week after this Verizon visit, word on XDA popped up that first a rooting method, and then the ability to bypass the bootloader altogether (via a patch called “Loki”) was in the works for the G2 potentially making it a “superphone” – latest and greatest specs mated with a custom ROM that could take full advantage.  The decision was basically made for me – I went out that very night and purchased the G2 from Verizon.

Wow you’re probably saying…that’s a really big nutshell.  Yeah, it kinda is.  But the G2 really deserves it.  For those not familiar, here’s a quick rundown of specs:

*2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 quad core processor
*Adreno 330 graphics processor
*Beautiful 5.2″ FHD display, IPS LCD, little to no bezel and on screen keys
*2GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage, and 3000mah battery
*13MP rear camera, with optical image stabilization (OIS)

Image courtesy of Slash Gear

Yeah – on paper this bad boy will pretty much destroy any other phone currently out there.  LG has done a great job of putting together some fantastic hardware.  One of the reasons the screen is so large and has so little bezel was the design choice to move the physical control buttons (power, volume up/down) to the rear of the phone (as seen in the picture)  Some may argue this is too radical a departure from modern design to work – honestly, it hasn’t bothered me at all.  It took a day or two to get used to…and that’s it.

You might remember, I was looking primarily for something that had a large, nice looking display.  And LG crushed it with the 5.2″ display that’s on the G2.  Say what you want about the back buttons, but if it really allowed for this IPS LCD to show up in this phone, then I’m all for it.  Watching anything from Youtube videos to streamed TV and movies is a genuine pleasure to do.  I told someone just yesterday it’s exactly like walking around with a 5″ high def TV in my pocket.  And that’s a good thing.  The look and feel in hand is good; it actually feels smaller than a 5.2″ display phone should.  The only flaw in the whole design in the back, and here it is pretty awful.  The back plastic panel collects fingerprints, dust, pocket lint, and also small rocks.  You get the idea.  The good news is a case will do the trick for this problem, and I chose the Incipio Feather Case in grey, and its perfect.  Problem solved.

The quad core processor is blazing fast…there’s nothing it hasn’t been able to do for me with lightning fast speed.  I’m not much of a gamer (Angry Birds, Stupid Zombies, and Alchemy are about as far as I go) but the GPU renders smoothly and quickly.  And as mentioned, TV and other video is sharp, clean, and stutter-free.  And for streaming, with LTE speeds, this really makes a huge difference in your real life day-to-day usage.

Photo courtesy of BGR.com

While not loaded with stock Android, as I’d wished for, the LG UI skin really isn’t so bad.  Many of the the UI’s features are usable, and actually helpful.  The toggles in the notification shade are placed well, the Samsung-esqe additions (smart screen and such) can be turned off if unwanted, and within a few minutes, I found myself with a very different experience than what comes right out of the box.  Many of the “busy” features included might take a little time to warm up to, but better to have them than not I say.

Let’s talk about that battery – its awesome.  As my esteemed colleague noted in one of his articles, it really is all about the battery.  The 3000mah beast can last for 2 days off one charge, if you have light to moderate usage (and I’ve actually done this already) – one full day on an LTE connection the whole time is easily done (a not unimpressive feat)  No one cares how awesome your smartphone is unless it works, and it’s not going to work if you don’t have juice.  And the G2 has got the juice, for sure.  The rear camera is pretty impressive as well, if only slightly less so than the battery life.  Most other sites reviewing the phone have thrown out things like “best Android camera ever” and “above average camera with next generation technology.”  These pretty much sum up my experience so far.  The camera is really, really good.  Are you going to ditch your DSLR anytime soon?  No…but maybe you can leave it home more often if you have the G2 with you.

As for the rest…well suffice it to say that because the “Loki” patch works, I’ve already been able to root the device, push out a custom recovery, which then allowed me to wipe the phone and flash a custom ROM.  All this technical geekery really means is that, much like my beloved Galaxy Nexus, I can take advantage of the hard work and dedication of the ROM development community.  And from early returns, it looks like the future in that area is going to be very, very bright.

Even my wife is a little jealous, and I have a feeling we’ll be getting her one of them pretty soon too.  Great screen, unbelievably fast, and lasts a whole day and more.  I guess the final word here is that if you love mobile phone tech (as much as I do), and you are into tinkering with your device (like I am), then it doesn’t get too much better than the G2 from LG.  The better news is that even if you aren’t like me, I have a feeling you’d probably like the G2 as much as I do – even if it is for different reasons.

[Review] 32GB Nexus 7 tablet

The Nexus 7 isn’t new to the market, nor is it the most technically advanced Android tablet out there…but what it is, is one fine device for the money.

Way back in September, I made a decision to purchase a tablet for my own use around the house.  I have a burning desire to surf the web, check my fantasy basketball team, post on the Facebook, and blog all from the comfort of my couch.  Sure I could do this on my netbook, and I bought it with that in mind, but the idea of using a tablet for these endeavors seems darn near perfect.

The 16GB version now costs a mere $199, the 32GB w/WiFi only is $249 (plus applicable tax) and on November 13th, 2012 the 32GB version with HSPA+ will launch for $299.  I decided to pull the trigger once the 32GB WiFi only version arrived in a local retail store.  Since I had a few gift cards laying about, I picked it up last Wednesday night for exactly $41.36…and even as a fan of Android, I can easily say I’m impressed with this device.

How It Looks:

Front of the Nexus 7

All the descriptions of the Nexus 7 are spot on, and still really don’t do it justice.  The front of the device without buttons of any kind is a sweet look, reminiscent of my Galaxy Nexus.  The soft touch dimpled rubber back with its minimalist “Nexus” and “Asus” logos is understated but cool.  The bezel is the right width to add to the look but not overpower it.  The position of the power button and volume rocker is a little too far down on the side for my taste, but isn’t annoying by any stretch.  I do find myself pushing the volume rocker instead of the power button from time to time, but with a little practice I’m sure I’ll get this sorted out.  I’m sure I’ll want a screen protector and a case at some point, but for now, this thing just looks so nice I probably want to keep it the way it is.

Back of the Nexus 7

Its only got the front facing camera, located in the dead center of the top of the bezel.  This works for me, as using it for Skype calls is probably the only reason I’d need a camera in this thing to begin with.  I’m not the type to be out taking pictures with a tablet…and honestly, I laugh at the people who do.  There’s the micro USB connection and headphone jack on the bottom right and that’s it.  The screen is beautiful, and as clear and sharp as one could hope for.  Due to the size of the all glass screen, it does tend to pick up fingerprints quickly.  A good screen protector will fix that, or do like I do and keep a nice eyeglass cloth handy to wipe down the front from time to time and you’re set.

Left side
Right Side
Right Side (angled)

How It Feels:

The size of the device is perfect for one handed holding (in portrait) and in landscape its definitely a two handed hold but its not in any way uncomfortable.  Having my fingers on the rubber back gives an impression of grippyness, and in either orientation you don’t ever feel like you’re going to drop the tablet.  It’s large enough to view just about anything you’d be likely viewing easily, from web pages to YouTube videos to eBooks and more.  When I showed Sean the device the other day, his exact words were “this is the perfect size.”  I’d agree.  I wanted something portable and felt good enough to hold it for long periods of time – the Nexus 7 hits those marks without breaking a sweat.

How It Works:

My 32GB version shipped with Android 4.1.1, and within a few minutes of connecting to WiFi updated itself to 4.1.2.  Jelly Bean is the best version of Android yet, and its performance is smooth and polished.  What’s a little odd is the Google Play store advertises that the Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.2, but this clearly wasn’t the case with my device.  I’ve flashed a few elements of 4.2 onto my Galaxy Nexus, and I can’t wait for the official version to come out, as just the camera and keyboard bits are fantastic upgrades.

Even so, I buy Nexus products for their ability to be unlocked and rooted, and the Nexus 7 is no exception.  After a few days and with a few minutes work, I had the tablet unlocked and rooted, and a few minutes after that, I had a custom ROM flashed onto it.  I use a custom launcher as well, so transitions between home screens are smooth and quick, and rotations from portrait to landscape and back again are snappy.  I only experienced some choppiness when using the Chrome browser, specifically when scrolling up or down on web pages.  To me, this isn’t really acceptable from a hardware or software standpoint, and the lag isn’t crippling, just annoying.  Which honestly makes it even less acceptable.  There’s really no reason I can think of for it at all.  

Real world battery tests included me using the tablet to watch a YouTube video for a half hour (which I streamed from my phone’s mobile hotspot) where the battery went from 100% to 93%.  Web use over WiFi makes barely a dent, and you have to work hard to drain the 4325mAh battery with mostly web based usage.  Google claims 10 hours of web surfing – I believe they are right.  As of the writing of this article, I’ve been on battery for 1d 7h 51m, with a little over 5h 22m of screen on time.  Chrome has used the cpu for 2h 10m, and Google Music about 27m of  usage.  And there’s still 30% of the battery left.  I’d expect to go about 3-4 days between charges with light to moderate usage, and 2 days pretty easily with normal use.

The Final Word:  

The Nexus 7 (in a word) is awesome.  I had a odd circumstance that forced me to wait for one of my gift cards, so while I had originally settled on purchasing the 16GB version of the Nexus, I’m glad the delay allowed me to get the 32GB version.  Now I can download as much content as I want, and not worry about running out of storage.  I can use the cloud if I need to, but I have the storage space to do as I please. The limited 8/16GB versions initially launched made me wary about buying one, but I’m very pleased with this purchase.  It’s size, features, Nexus qualities, and price point really do make this the best Android tablet out there.  You can take my word for it…or go check it out for yourself.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.