My New Phone… Again!

I may be slightly addicted to buying phones. This time my addiction didn’t cost me a large part of my pay. Instead it was a small investment in the aftermarket, specifically eBay.

My last phone was the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus. I actually really like the phone. For an Android based phone I really can’t think of anything I really need more that the Redmi 5 Plus. And Xiaomi has been faithful in providing security and feature updates which is great.

So lets be clear. I didn’t move on from my last phone because I didn’t like it.

So why?

I hate virtual on screen keyboards. I can’t type quickly on them as there’s no feedback. I’m constantly typing the wrong letters as no keyboard seems to be well spaced out for my fingers. And there’s no feedback. No click, no feeling that you have indeed typed what you have typed other than seeing the mess of a result on the screen. I have been trained to not have to look at the keyboard to type but with no defined keys a normally easy process on a computer is turned in to hell on the modern smartphone.

7130e_all_views

I am reminded of the days back when I had my various Blackberry devices. I started with a Blackberry 7130e. From there I had three different Blackberry Curves. Then I graduated to the ultimate Blackberry Bold 9930. I bought that Blackberry full price from Verizon about two years after that phone was relevant. In fact the box had dust on it when the sales guy brought it up. You could just hear the sales guy’s muttering under his breath on me buying such an out of date phone. Keep in mind at this time I could have bought a Samsung Galaxy S2 or S3 (I think the S3 was just available).

Blackberry_Bold_9930_NO_CAMERA_QWERTY_Smartphone_for_Verizon_-_Black_35382

Anyways I used the Blackberry Bold 9930 for years until my dad and I left Verizon for Virgin Mobile Canada. My Bold was not compatible with the Canadian network so I had to buy a new phone. That started my stint with Blu phones. While their phones are cheap their support is miserable and their promised updates never came.

Xiaomi-Redmi-5-Plus-poza-5

I discovered Xiaomi after my miserable life with my last Blu phone. But during all this time using the all screen smart phones I have been ever increasingly ticked off at not having a physical keyboard. As referenced by the success by Blackberry’s latest KeyOne and Key2 offerings the keyboard has become popular again. No I didn’t buy either of those as they are still around $400 CAD to buy but I did do a lot of research on their older phones and came up with the perfect solution:

(BlackBerry)  CLICK02_BBY_070516_COMPANY

The Blackberry Classic (also know as the Q20)

The Blackberry Classic is ancient by all means nowadays being released in 2011 with the Blackberry 10 OS based on Blackberry’s own QNX operating system.

The phone itself looks like a bigger version of the Bold that I had before (and actually still have). It has all the same features where it comes to input. Qwerty keyboard, touch scroll button, send and end buttons and the blackberry menu button. You also get the volume up and down buttons with a hot button that can be set to what you like and a lock button up top. The screen is also touch sensitive like the the Bold.

The Blackberry OS smooth to work with but doesn’t feel like natural update to the previous OS on the Curve. The Blackberry tablet OS on the Playbook felt more like a natural update in my opinion.

Anyways you will have to deal with the lack of apps on the App World (which is being discontinued soon I believe anyways) or the installed Amazon App Store. There aren’t many apps on the Amazon store either so you may have to manually install the Google Play store which is easy to find on the internetz.

I haven’t installed many apps regardless and have honestly been enjoying the fresh experience of just having a browser and the ability to text and get email. It has been great.

The Classic is snappy when using it’s built in apps. The emulated android apps run OK when they run. Don’t expect any Android apps that are somewhat resource intensive to work as the resources on the Classic are limited. It is a seven year old phone after all.

The real benefit of the Classic is the physical keyboard. OH THANK THE HEAVENS! It is glorious. I love having a physical keyboard. It has made using my phone such a better experience. I don’t need a spell check anymore as I can touch type without worrying what I have typed in. It’s so great.

The best part of all this is the phone only cost me sixty bucks. In almost perfect shape and it even came with charger. Very impressed.

Do I recommend doing this. Actually I do. It has been very therapeutic. I have been unplugged from social media though Facebook and Twitter are available on the Classic. It feels really good to just have the ability to text and get email.

nokia-e71-02

Give it a shot. I’d even recommend going to a Nokia E71 if you are with a communications company that supports 2G and 3G still.

Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus

Xiaomi is a little known company from China that has been making huge strides into the North American market. They are known mostly for mobile devices like smart phones, tablets and notebook pcs. They also produced the recently released Oculus Go VR headset.

In the last couple of years Xiaomi has made a name for themselves building high quality devices at a great value compared to others in the space. In an environment where high end phones are demanding more than $1000 CAD Xiaomi is selling devices in the $150 to $300 range.

Xiaomi-Redmi-5-Plus-poza-5
This is the colour I chose.

I have been happy with my Motorola built Nexus 6 but recently I’ve been feeling the lack of on board storage, second sim slot and memory hampering my experience. Which is too bad really as the Nexus 6 is a great device. Continue reading “Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus”

Android Has Games!

To start, I have no idea if these are available on iOS and I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t really care. Yep, I said that. OK, fine. All are available on iOS with the exception of Magic Circus. With that out of the way, HEY there are games on these things!

With my two latest phones I have been able to play a large amount of the latest games on Android and I wanted to cover a few of them here I think you should check out.

PinOut

This is a simple pinball game that becomes tough by making it a race against the clock. The physics are pretty good and the controls work pretty well. The premise of the game is to get further and further along the pinball table while replenishing your time left by collecting pellets and playing mini games. If you are familiar with Tron Legacy you will see where the developers got the ideas for their game design and the music. The music is so good I wish I could download a soundtrack of it separately. It’s free to play though if you want to save your progress you will have to spend a couple bucks to unlock the game. This is also one of the few that you can play offline.screenshot_20170123-091302

Nice Shot Golf

This game is almost a near ripoff of Hot Shots Golf in style but it’s a great golf game still. The developers make their money using in game micro transactions like so many other games nowadays. There are a couple items that can be bought to make the game easier but to be honest I have not had a problem playing the game with what I earn in game. You can earn different outfits that increase your avatars golfing ability and a few different currencies that allow you to upgrade your golf clubs to make you more accurate. Overall it’s a fun game but it does require a hefty in-game download to play and a constant internet connection afterwards. There is also a PvP function that I honestly haven’t played around with but it’s cool to see it there.screenshot_20170123-091603

Juice Jam

This is really a reskin of Candy Crush Saga but I prefer this version. Not much to say here other than the neat animations of the characters in game are fun to watch. The difficult ramps up rather quickly though so expect to spend some money on in game items to make it further if you don’t want to retry multiple times.screenshot_20170123-092114

Microsoft Solitaire

If you are familiar with Microsoft’s Solitaire suite on Windows 10 then you are familiar with the Android version. It works very well and is probably the best Solitaire game on Android.screenshot_20170123-092232

Magic Circus

This is sort of a modified Bejewelled clone that is similar to Candy Crush as well. It’s a bit simpler than Candy Crush but a lot mindless fun.screenshot_20170123-092337

Are there any games that you play that should get some love? Let me know in the comments.

Blue Life One X2 – HYPE!

Recently I moved from my old Blackberry Bold 9930 and Verizon to a Blu Life One X (2016) and Virgin Mobile and one of the things I’ve enjoyed is the absolute freedom to use any unlocked cell phone on the Virgin network. If you listen to our podcast you will note that a week after I purchased my Blu Life One X it was upgraded and renamed the Blu Life One X2. This new phone came with many new features for a bump in price of 60 Canadian loonies.

I was distressed by the fact that my phone had been so handily swept to the trash heap as the new phone has specs that utterly demolished the One X. So when I found out that I was getting a Christmas bonus at work I ordered the new X2. I am so happy I did.

The new phone has the same size screen though not the same screen. If you are looking for better colour you may want to stay with the One X. The screen is still more than usable however and with all the added features I can’t recommend the old phone. The back plate is really nice on this phone. Blu has went ahead and put a metal back plate on the phone and moved the camera to the centre-top. This along with the two shiny chrome-like beauty stripes on the back really make this phone look premium. It does add some weight to the phone though so if you like lighter phones you may want to look else-where.

One of the biggest changes this time around is the replacement of the Mediatek 6753 8-core cpu. This time Blu chose to go with an 8-core cpu from Qualcomm which is great in a few different ways. First, it runs much cooler. In fact I’ve never felt it heat up. The Mediatek was a heat monster in the One X. Second, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 offers quick charging making it possible to charge up to a 70% charge in half an hour. I didn’t think that would effect me so much but it has. Even ten minutes on the charger can help you in a pinch if you have to head out on an errand. Third, the performance of the cpu and gpu nearly double the performance of the Mediatek part according to 3DMark.

Blu also made some changes to the memory and storage. There are actually two versions of this phone available. The base version (what I call it at least as they don’t have a name for it) comes with the same specs as the One X but with the Qualcomm chip (2GB of memory and 16GB of storage). The premium version (again what I call it as they don’t have a name for it) has a whopping 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. That is impressive for a phone at this price point (I’ll get to that later).

On top of all these new features the new phone still retains it’s dual sim slots and an SD card slot. You can’t remove the battery though and that remains a small sticking point for me as you could not in the One X either. On the same note though the battery life is hugely improved over the Mediatek. With my typical use which is semi-heavy I went from getting about 8 hours of battery life to 13 hours. That use mostly includes web surfing and playing music for the day with the screen brightness at about 33%.

screenshot_2017-01-23-07-50-28
Blu Life One X 2016 3DMark Score

Performance of the phone is quite snappy. I regularly leave apps open now that I wouldn’t have done on the previous phone. Most games perform adequately as well but don’t expect your super graphics intensive games to run fantastic on this device. I have found that games like Nice Shot Golf and Pokemon Go and PinOut perform quite well.

screenshot_20170123-073934
Blu Life One X2 4GB Edition 3DMark Score

The storage is something that was severely lacking on the One X and the X2 makes up for it quite well. The problem with using an SD card for storing things like apps (like I had to do on the One X) is the phone sometimes doesn’t detect the apps installed on the card for some time after the phone has booted. With the 64GB of storage you really have enough room for any app you may ever want. And if you don’t you still have an option to add an SD card.

As per usual it’s a pleasure to swap phones with Android as all of your settings are imported and the phone immediately begins to download and install your apps once you are online. The X2 comes with a pretty vanilla version of Android 6.0.1. The only extra apps I noticed were the Blu Help app and a couple apps from Amazon. Otherwise it’s a pretty bare installation. The launcher is OK that comes with it but I hate having a Google search bar stuck on my screen and as such with every Android device I own I immediately install Nova Launcher.

After all this typing I realize I forgot one of the biggest new features on the X2. It now has a physical home button with an integrated fingerprint reader! Yes folks, that is quite a premium item on a budget phone. I never thought I’d care for a fingerprint reader but now that I have one I don’t know if I would buy a phone without one ever again. It’s super convenient.

The improved camera (now at 16MP) is great especially with the new bundled camera app. It’s very intuitive to change shot styles and the phone takes pictures very quickly. Pictures come out great in regular and bright light. Dark pictures are OK but nothing to get excited about. I was impressed that the dark scene pictures were not very grainy as is typical for lower end phones. Also the laser focus is super quick and a great upgrade from the old One X’s phase data system.blulifeonex2gray

With the phone Blu sends a screen protector, a gel case and a quick-charger that works with the Qualcomm chips. If you buy from Amazon Canada beware (which I believe is the only way to get these phones except for perhaps eBay). The seller that Amazon uses apparently sold a ton of these phones without quick-chargers. This is a big deal as Blu ships all their phones with quick-chargers from the factory so for this seller to swap them out for cheap usb chargers is really ridiculous. I was fortunate enough to receive one with the correct charger. Also, never fear, as stated these phones will charge with regular chargers, they just won’t charge as quickly.

So there you have it. Another Blu phone. I’ve said it in the podcast and I’ll say it again here, I don’t understand why this company is not getting more coverage. I know it’s had a shaky past with some not so great software preinstalled on their phones but that is in the past. Their current phones are incredible for the price.

The Blu Life One X2 retails for 259.99 CAD on Amazon Canada right now.

If you are in the market for a new phone and your carrier allows unlocked phones on their network consider the X2 before you make any decisions. You will be happy you did.

Black to Blu: Finally moving from my Blackberry Bold 9930.

Quite a few years back my dad and I made the change to Verizon from Telus. Yes, those companies are in two completely different countries. You see at the time the Canadian Dollar was at or just above parity with the United States and the phone plans offered by Verizon at the time were far, far, far more competitive than the any of the Canadian companies. Continue reading “Black to Blu: Finally moving from my Blackberry Bold 9930.”