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iPhone 5s

WayTools TextBlade may be the ultimate portable keyboard

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Truth is typing on a slab of glass just isn't efficient. Even with the larger iPhone 6 plus, iPad mini or Ipad Air 2, typing is acceptable at fast. Typing on glass is much slower than typing on a traditional keyboard (because of the tactile response which means you don't have to look at the keyboard). 

Over the last 20 years, I have tried hundreds of portable keyboard and only a small handful have actually been "good" or usable in the field. Now a company called WayTools is launching a brand new ultra compact portable bluetooth keyboard called the TextBlade. [Since it is bluetooth, it works with all modern smartphones and tablets including iPhone, iPad, Samsung, HTC, Nexus and more).

Announced at CES, it is a 3 piece keyboard that magnetically attaches to itself. It charges using any USB port and the company claims you get 1 month of autonomy with a 1 hour charge. 

The company describes the TextBlade as:

TextBlade is brimming with advanced technology, including the World’s first physical MultiTouch Keys, ultra low energy Bluetooth Smart, and the first MultiLayer Keys, bringing symbols and editing to home row ... all engineered into the most compact touch-type machine ever produced.
— WayTools

WayTools TextBlade uses the same QWERTY layout we all know and love but adds smart functions like copy/paste, easy letter, word or sentence selection, etc.

I can't judge it until I test one for a couple of weeks but I am very much interested and intrigued. If this works as advertised, it may turn out to be a huge win for the company and mobile productivity nuts.  

 

OnePlus is a $299 (no contract) Android superphone

technologyEdward Kiledjian1 Comment

The Nexus line of Google handsets are popular because they provide a stock (vanilla) Google Android experience but more importantly they provide a beautiful kit at an unbeatable price. 

People want great handsets at affordable prices and the market is hot for these types of devices (as opposed to the $800 iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S5). A new Chinese company called OnePlus has finally revealed the specs on their upcoming (Q2) flagship phone the OnePlus One (link). 

The OnePlus One will offer :

  • 5.5" LTPS IPS TOL 1080p screen (very good choice)
  • 2.5GHZ quad core Snapdragon 801
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 3,100 mAH battery
  • 5MP front camera (with wide 80degree capture zone)
  • 13MP f2.0 back camera (SONY EXMOR IMX214)
  • 3 microphones to enhance noise reduction 
  • Choice of onscreen or capacitive keys (changeable anytime)
  • Multimode LTE (that should work in most countries)

All of this goodness will come in a beautiful sleek and minimalist package selling for $US299 for the white 16GB version and $US349 for the Sandstone Black 64GB one.

For the android enthusiasts, OnePlus has chosen to go with a special build of Cyanogenmod which means you get all of the features and functionalities you expect from CM (which will be Android 4.4.2 out of the box). 

The only negative is that we don't know when it will be available yet. The company said it will be sold sometime in Q2 but you'll have to get an invite to buy one. Invites will be available through special contest, promotions or sign-up links. 

Sample night picture provided by OnePlus

Sample night picture provided by OnePlus

Other OnePlus One features

Other OnePlus One features

WIFI 3G enhancing Absolute Linkase Pro for iPhone 5s Review

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

We are a society that prides itself on always being connected and there is nothing more frustrating that having weak WIFI or 3G that causes intermittent connectivity flickering. I experience this most often when using hotel WIFI. Sometimes my room is just at the edge of the reception range and I have to walk around trying to find the best spot to get a signal.

Absolute (link) developed its Linkase (for iPhone 5 and 5s) specifically to help you get a signal when you might otherwise not. It does this using an Electromagnetic Wave Guide to direct more of that signal goodness directly into your devices internal antenna. 

Anytime I do a review, the question I want to answer is: "Is the device worth the $39 asking price?" Read on to find out...

Let's get physical

The case itself is made from a hard solid feeling plastic. It has a slightly graining feeling which makes the (normally) slippery iPhone much easier to grip. It measures 126.4mm x 61.2mm x 10.8 mm, which means it is extremely thin and doesn't add bulk to your phone. It is smaller and more compact that the original Apple brand leather iPhone 5s case.

It has 2 EMV antennas:

  • Top one for WIFI boosting
  • Bottom one for 3G boosting (LTE versions available by region)

As you can see, there is a cutout for the camera and there is a cutout for the side control buttons and the bottom (speaker, microphone and lightning connector).

The EMW sensor is a special material that traps the WIFI or 3G signal and forces it towards you devices internal antenna (without requiting any plugs, cables or device modification). When the antennas are not in use (you can use 1 or both at any given time), they cleanly slide into the case and disappear. 

I used the case with a ZAGG InvisibleShield screen protector and it worked perfectly together.

All of the original iphone controls work very well and are easily accessible. The only difficulty is getting the hard shell on and off.

Unlike the "real" protective cases, this devices primary job is boosting your WIFI /3G signal and therefore it doesn't offer much protection if your phone is dropped. It will prevent scratches but don't expect real dependable drop protection. You give up drop protection in exchange for sleekness.

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Does the Linkase Pro work?

I tested the WIFI portion at home, at work and in a coffee shop. Each time I tested network performance using the IOS Speedtest.net app and performed at least 4 pairs of tests (1 pair = with case then without the case).  I ensured that for each pair, the phone didn't move and that the same Speedtest.net endpoint server was being used. I performed 4 pairs of tests to ensure the results where one-off issues.

I discovered that when I was in a good WIFI zone, the case actually seemed to slightly negatively impact WIFI performance. Standing about 10 feet from my Asus 801.11n router, I was downloading around 26.5Mbps without the case and 23.2-24.9 with the case. Surprisingly upload speeds seemed not affected.

But the case is built for low signal boosting so I walked far enough to where the WIFI signal was at 1 bar without the EMW antenna deployed. I then performed the tests again and the case didn't improve download or upload speeds. At this distance, the case had no performance impact on download/upload speeds.

For each test, I also loaded popular websites CNN, Kiledjian.com, Yahoo, Google (clearing cache between each test) and performance wasn't materially different (with or without the case).

My final test was WIFI boosting capabilities in a dead spot. I walked just to the point where my iPhone lost the wifi signal (walking a couple of feet back would bring the signal back). I deployed the WIFI EMV and then checked the network settings app to see if the iPhone could see the WIFI network beacon (with and without the case) and it couldn't. 

What about the 3G boosting capabilities?

I performed similar tests on the 3G boosting capabilities which was easy because I work in a building and area with bad cell reception. The 3G boosting capabilities were just as bad as the WIFI ones. 

For the purpose of comparison, I also tested signal boosting ability of my Wilson Electronics 3G/LTE Active powered booster and this one made a difference to reception quality and strength. Of course I expected the Wilson to perform better since it is powered and has active electronics.

Verdict

This was one of those products that I really really wanted to work. I loved its promise of signal boosting and could imagine dozens of different uses for me (especially when travelling). Unfortunately (in my tests), it didn't provide any benefit WIFI or 3G.

For the purpose of completeness of testing, I installed the case on a non-technical friends iphone 5s and asked him to give me his feedback. A couple of days later he said he didn't notice any change (positive or negative). His exact comment was "With the case, I have the exact same reception as without the case. Dead spots are dead and when I'm in the basement, I get the same abysmal wifi I have always had".

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Best iPhone 5/5s battery case

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
Mophie Juice pack Plus 2100 MmAh battery pack for iPhone 5

Mophie Juice pack Plus 2100 MmAh battery pack for iPhone 5

Everyone with a smartphone has experienced the pain of running our of power just when you need it most. Sure you can always carry around an external battery pack but always on batteries cases are the go to solution for many.

It seems everyone I talk to knows about the Mophie line of products but check out their Amazon rating (Juice Pack Air has a rating below 3) and you'll quickly realize that popular doesn't mean best. 

In fact the comments you read on Amazon are telling. Most complain about the device breaking within a couple of months. My own experience mirrored these comments. I had 2 Mophie juice pack airs that broken in under 3 months (1 broke during an overseas trip which cause many headaches).

What I looked for when choosing a battery pack case

I wanted a real brand that offered a verifiable MFI Apple certification (no cheap Chinese knock offs) 

An iPhone 5 has a 1440mAh battery and a 5s has a 1560mAh therefore I need a case that can fully charge my iphone at least once. You have to take into account the power loss due to design or power transfer as well (so my minimum mAh was 1700 and above).

Fast charging time for the battery and fastest charging time of my device.

The Winner is...

The best battery I have found is the Lenmar Meridien IPhone case.

Most cases offered battery capacities close to what they were advertising but Lenmar was the most accurate with its 2300mAh claim. It charged quickly itself and charged my iPhone (20%) within 15 minutes. 

It is a one of the most slim and svelte battery cases out there and the price is extremely competitive at about $US50 on Amazon (link).

That being said, the buttons are a little difficult to access.

The other issue I encountered was diminished cell phone reception (less bars). Every case that covers the entire phone suffers from this issue. In areas with strong reception, this wasn't an issue but my office is a shielded building and I get 1/2 bars at best without a case. With the Lenmar (and other full body cases), I sometimes experienced dropped calls or reception dropping to sub-1 bar performance. (I use Telus by the way).

Verdict

Overall this turned out to be a solid case with great performance and a few drawbacks. Having tested the Lenmar against the Mophie, uNu, Incipio and the Chinese knock-offs, I can say the Lenmar was the best. I was the slimmest and offered the best battery performance. 

If you want or need a battery case for your iPhone 5/5s, get this one.

Lenmar includes an extension cable so you can plug in your headphones.

Lenmar includes an extension cable so you can plug in your headphones.

iPhone coming to Videotron March 28

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Videotron has had a "interest registration"  page for a while promising to notify you when the iPhone eventually made its way to its Quebec only network. 

Now we see these tweets

We know Videotron bought 700MHZ spectrum outside of Quebec with the hopes of expanding its services accross Canada.  We know the iPhone typically drives new subscribers to carriers so pairing it with an attractive monthly plan can be really bad news for Rogers, Bell or Telus.