Category Archives: reviews

Product Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 4

If you’ve been reading my other Samsung reviews, you should know that I’m not a fan of their hardware design. Until now.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is a stunning device. It looks good, feels good, and is super fast.  The AT&T LTE coverage was excellent everywhere I went.

Selfie with the Note 4

I’ve been using this phone, in addition to my iPhone, for a couple of weeks now, and I don’t want to give it back. I chaperoned a high school band trip involving 100 kids, freezing weather, and a 30-hour round trip bus ride. I thoroughly tested the camera, videos, battery life, cold weather use, navigation, and just general feel, and it never let me down.

10922672_10155008415045627_89166737912906907_nAgain, once you get to this class of phone, it is hard to be disappointed. It is not much smaller than the Mega 2, but that little bit makes a huge difference in usability. I found this size much easier to handle. It still requires two hands, but it doesn’t feel like I’m holding a waffle.

Another different aspect to this phone is the stylus. Tucked away, it’s invisible. It did come in handy using the phone in cold weather. I didn’t need special gloves or have to take mine off to use it. The stylus has a couple of useful functions that would be extremely handy for someone who needs to make handwritten notes, drawings, or markup images. I would probably utilize this with critiquing apps, websites, and other media viewed on the device. I think this would take some getting used to in order to maximize use of these features. Purchasing an additional stylus is not a bad idea. If you become accustomed to using it and you lose it, waiting seems costlier than having a backup.

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Traveling on the bus during the band trip gave me the chance to test out the hotspot. Let me just say I was everyone’s new best friend. The wifi was fast and reliable compared to the charter bus setup, even out in the boondocks. This is a wonderful feature for meetings, classes, family vacations, and more.

I’m sad about handing this device over to AT&T this week. Who knows? Maybe I’ll pick up one for myself. Don’t tell my iPhone.

 

Disclaimer: I was given this phone to review by AT&T without any conditions or remuneration.

Product Review – Samsung Galaxy Mega 2

Before I received the Samsung Galaxy Mega 2, I knew it was going to be big, but this thing is huge. I have large hands for a woman and I cannot operate this phone with one hand. It absolutely requires two hands to use.

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My kids said it looks like I’m talking into a waffle. Yes, a waffle. That being said, I quickly adapted to it over heavy use for a week and my iPhone 4S seems woefully inadequate in the size department. Of course, I can still read on the 4S in bed or play Candy Crush with one hand. I can’t even use this phone unless I put it in a charger stand on my nightstand or prop it up somehow to watch a movie or something.

The reality is that it is the same square footage as a checkbook cover and twice as thick.

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I had opportunities to use many of the features on the phone, but mostly tested it out for feel and general use.

I would love to see the AT&T FamilyMap app in action. It looks like a great idea for families with teenagers, especially.

Once I got used to the size (and it’s a big one!), I enjoyed nearly all aspects of this phone. This is a lot sexier than the Galaxy Alpha I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. Even though it still has some of those Samsung bumps in the case that mold around hardware features, it’s not as annoying as on a smaller unit.  It feels sleek and light with an interesting back that looks like stitched leather.

Battery life was excellent with heavy usage. Coverage was very good in the Tampa Bay area, as well.

I really could go on and on listing the specs that are available on thousands of other websites, but it comes down to this. If you want a big phone/phablet and you understand the reality of that size, this is a great choice. If you aren’t sure you’d like the size, give it a try. If you don’t like it, take it back. You usually get 30 days to try phones. I’m a pretty solid iPhone user, but I’m also a hardcore Google user (Drive, Gmail, Calendar, etc.) I run my life through Google services. I could see being happy with a switch a phone like this. Seriously.

The quality and features of so many smartphones now are so amazing that as long as you stick to popular brands, it’s hard to go wrong. Utilize those first 30 days of your new phone to really see if you are in love with it. You just might be surprised.

I feel a bit spoiled by this phone/phablet and look forward to upgrading to something much larger than my old iPhone 4S.

Disclaimer: I was given this phone to review by AT&T without any conditions or remuneration.

Product Review – Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Image (c) Ann Adair

This past week, I had the Samsung Galaxy Alpha in my hands.

Let me begin with some positives: One of the nicest looking phones from Samsung, period. Screen is gorgeous!  Processing speed is nice and fast. Generally, the phone is very responsive.

Google’s new Inbox looks fantastic. I’m a hardcore Google user and I wish it was this pretty on my iPhone. Sometimes I forget what the Android platform is really like. It’s quite nice, actually.

The size of the phone feels good in your hand. Not too big and unwieldy like some of the super-sized phones around.

(c) Ann Adair — Shown is Thinkamingo’s Lists for Writers app available on Google Play.

Some cons? Battery life could be a little better.

My biggest issue with this phone is that while it is one of the best looking Samsung models to date, it’s not very sleek. It wants to be sleek. It’s light and thin, with a beveled metal edge, but what annoys me is the assortment of bumps in the case to facilitate the camera, the headphone jack, and the power cable. I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off this phone because of the picking I would do with these little anomalies.

Basically, that’s the worse thing about this phone, which means if that doesn’t bother you, you’re golden. This is a great lower-priced phone that packs a lot of power. It’s fast and pretty with apps-a-plenty on the Android platform. This is a great value for a casual phone, but not not want you want if you are looking for a flagship-type model for heavy business use.

Disclaimer: I was given this phone to review by AT&T without any conditions or remuneration.

Product Review – Nokia Lumia 830

Last week, I had the opportunity to test drive the Nokia Lumia 830.

The 830 stands out from the crowd with the beautiful Windows Phone live tile OS and the sleek case design. It feels substantial in the hand, but not nearly as weighty as the 920.

Cortana, I love you. You are Siri-ous competition, my lovely. Cortana displays text as you go and also includes punctuation. Really brilliant. Setting up favorites to maximize the efficacy of Cortana takes some time, but it’s worth it. Cortana could change your mobile life.

Setting up the phone to use was very easy since I already had a Windows Live account, and all of my information loaded quickly. Setting up Gmail and Facebook took no time at all, as well.

I loaded some of our Windows Phone apps (Name Dice, TampaMom, Thinkamingo) to play with and they all looked very good. The processing speed is nice and fast.

The navigation apps on this phone were rubbish. Honestly, if it’s not Google Maps or Waze, I don’t have time for it. I tried HERE+ and it was not easy to use. There was another navigation app that I can’t remember the name of, but in order to really use anything worthwhile on it, it wanted me to upgrade or subscribe. Nope.

The camera. Wow. The camera on the 830 is spectacular. You will not be disappointed with it. The one good/bad feature is the manual camera button on the lower right side of the phone.  I hold my phone in such a way that I repeatedly turned the camera on by depressing that button. If this was my permanent phone, I’m sure I would alter my behavior to accommodate that, but as it was my phone for a week, I couldn’t get past it. Sometimes, it’s awfully handy to have that button so that your phone feels more like a camera, but for me, it was a pain in the butt.

Being in the Tampa Metropolitan area, mobile service coverage is generally pretty good across the board for all providers. There can be some challenges on bridges across Tampa Bay, or in other topographically-challenged areas where the signal just can’t dip down into an area. On the whole, this AT&T phone had excellent LTE coverage in this area, making the whole experience fast and fun.

The overall sound and volume level was impressive. I setup my own MixRadio personalized station and was impressed by the acuity of picking music I might like.

This phone came with a neon-green back cover which was a little too bright for my taste, but would definitely be more fun for someone else. It was very easy to find in my dark purse!

Battery life was very good for my use. I didn’t notice any unusual battery drain or problems with an average day of using the internet, texting, and a voice call or two.

You can read other more detailed, more technical, and more biased reviews around the web, but here’s the bottom line. An average user would not be disappointed with this beautiful and powerful phone. The overall design is attractive and feels good in the hand. Windows has the most striking mobile OS with the live tiles and eye-catching contemporary design. Finally, Cortana is brilliant.

One area I didn’t talk about was the availability of quality Windows Phone apps. If you rely heavily on a specific app or set of apps for your work, you should buy a phone that supports those apps. As far as anything else goes, be flexible. What apps do you currently use all the time? If you don’t buy or download apps, then it’s a non-issue for you. If you are a casual gamer, there are plenty of apps that fit the bill in the Windows Store.

Overall, this phone is worthy of high praise on nearly every level. It would be a nice upgrade to my Lumia 920!

Disclaimer: I was given this phone to review by AT&T without any conditions or remuneration.