Monday, November 23, 2015

Tech Bytes Review: Toast. The wrap, not the food.

So, anyone who knows me or follows me on twitter knows that I hate phone wraps with every fiber of my being.

They look like crap, and barely fit correctly. They collect dust, and start peeling. Sharp edges that scratch your hands and ears.

Well, I heard of this vendor called "Toast" and they made "wraps". I was still holding out hope that one day I could find a wood pattern wrap that looked like real wood and didn't make my phone look like crap. This company is based in the U.S.. They have a strong presence in social media, and a phone number that you can actually call and actually get someone on the phone!

I had heard of Dbrand and was considering trying them after a TERRIBLE review of Slickwraps (who has been all the rage lately).

I had some interaction with Toast on Twitter, and they kept making claims about butterfingers policies (which is some type of "I screwed this up because im a tard" replacement thing) and I thought it was pretty cool. I saw a couple of reviews and noticed that the very troublesome rear top corners of the 6P (above the visor) was a trouble area for almost everyone.

At first glance, I liked the way the Wraps looked. They looked like real wood, although I was not convinced. I was sure there was some fine print in there somewhere.

I mulled it over for a couple days. I will admit. I was hesitant to drop the $50 on a wrap. After all, I have had NO luck getting a wrap before now. And the thought of wasting $50 on something as dumb as a wrap was bothering me.

I decided I owed it to you (my readers), myself, and Toast (as a still fairly new company) to give it a shot. I figured worst case scenario, I hate it, its crap, they will probably sort me out with a return or something.

I bought the Walnut Back with an Ebony inlay for the visor. I opted to spend the extra $10 for the front panel, and another extra $5 for a custom engraving.

I ordered last Thursday and received my wrap this morning. The packaging was very nice, and I was greeted by a packing slip with a big stamp on it.


Very nice touch I thought. When I opened the wrap, I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma. It WAS ACTUALLY real wood. I stopped for a moment to look carefully at the template. I still don't know how they get real wood that thin, but I genuinely thought I would get something...else. Not sure what.

Installation was a BREEZE. Took me 5 minutes to install.

BE CAREFUL THOUGH! This stuff is backed with 3M adhesive. Be very careful before you set it down on the phone, because it is STICKY. As long as you use your noise cancelling mic and fingerprint reader as a guide, you will be ok.

Once installed, I could not believe how nice it looked. Every laser cut around the edges serve a purpose. They make it perfectly hug the phone. So my phone has the wood finish, and the curves. Not to mention a fantastic smell. (this may be personal preference) It reminds me of my Dads old Wood Shop.

Here are some pics of the wrap once it is installed.

Beautiful right?

Well, here is the thing.

Yes...They are expensive, but no more so than a god awful ugly Otterbox. I still don't know how its going to hold up with time, moisture, grease, oil from my skin, etc.

Do I personally think it's worth $50? I think if you want wood, and you have the $50 to spend, buy this wrap. DO NOT WASTE A PENNY on a $20 vinyl wrap. Instead, save your money, and get this.

So this is probably not a surprise to you...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tech Bytes Review: SlickWraps

Slick wraps are quickly gaining popularity. Vinyl wraps are nothing new. I remember purchasing wraps from istyles back in the EVO 4G days. Over the top busy vinyl stickers to add a unique style to my device.

I have heard nothing but good things about Slick Wraps, so, I decided to give it a shot during a sale they were having. $10 ea. At the time, I had both a Nexus 5x and a Nexus 6P. I bought 2 for each device and waited.

The shipping wasn't terrible. I received my wraps within a week of ordering, and the packaging and presentation is quite nice.

I read through the instructions thoroughly, looked easy enough.

I went to peel the back label off carefully, but apparently not carefully enough.

You see, there is a FATAL design flaw on these things, and it rests in the lettering.

If you look at the pictures below you will see that the letters have VERY VERY thin pieces of vinyl holding them together. No matter how carefully I tried, 3 out of 4 of these broke off the center of the "e" forcing me to line it up manually and independently from the rest of the wrap.

Furthermore, I was never able to line up the cut outs with the letters on the back of the phone. The SlickWraps come with Black and White lettering so you can fill them in yourself but it's infuriating to peel them out and put them in place with tweezers. I decided to think outside the box and just put the entire "Nexus" sticker on the back of the phone so that just a plain white sticker shown through the cutouts.

Once I finally got the back installed, I notice another issue on my 6P. The visor is a TOTAL pain to get right, and the corners will not lay down flat. I tried the hair dryers, I tried pushing it down with my thumb, but nothing I did would make it lay down flat. I wasn't able to get pictures of this on my device, but I was able to get some from a fellow redditor.

I gave up on getting that portion to lay right, and moved on to the sides. The cutout for the volume rocker was too small by a very small amount, so I had to use a needle to carefully stretch the wrap to fit over the volume rocker.

All that aside...lets talk about overall quality.

I can forgive those other issues, after all, I am an early adapter, and nobody gets these things right the first time. It takes reports from consumers to help SlickWraps improve their product.

However, Even after getting the wrap installed (for the most part) I noticed that the edges were quit sharp and uncomfortable to hold. Holding the phone up to my ear meant the wrap scraping against my ear until it was sore. The saving grace on my 5X was the clear Ringke Fusion I had on it that helped to keep the corners held in place, and save the back and sides of my hands from having to touch the sharp edges of the device.

I have heard claims that DBrand has a better quality wrap, but at this point, I'm not spending the money to review another vinyl wrap. I'll just stick with the case.

So, How does slick wraps hold up?

NOPE! I would say unless they manage to fix these issues, it's a complete waste of money. So save yourself the time, frustration, and money, and go with a nice case instead.

Tech Bytes App Review: Twilight

Your phone is robbing you of sleep!

Let's be honest. Most of us are guilty of doing the same thing that the lunkhead above is doing (that lunkhead is me by the way). Lying awake, redditing, maybe catching up on twitter real quick before you go to sleep for the night....

Next thing you know, it's 1:30 AM, and you are watching cat's being scared by cucumbers, and looking at cringepics. You were tired 4 hours ago when you decided to "look at twitter real quick", but now you are wide awake.

There is actually a scientific reason for this. Harsh lights (blue and white) actually inhibits the bodies ability to release melatonin and screws with its natural sleep rhythms.

The easiest solution is just not to use any electronics in the bedroom.

HAHAHA Yea right. Not happening, bud.

So, before I tell you a great way to get around that rule, check out this study I found by the National Sleep Foundation. Or, if you don't care, just skip down a little. See you after the break.

Communications technology use before sleep is pervasive.
Americans report very active technology use in the hour before trying to sleep. Almost everyone surveyed, 95%, uses some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. However, baby boomers (46-64 year olds), generation X'ers (30-45 year olds), generation Y'ers (19-29 year olds) and generation Z'ers (13-18 year olds) report very different technology preferences.
About two-thirds of baby boomers (67%) and generation X'ers (63%) and half of generation Z'ers (50%) and generation Y'ers (49%) watch television every night or almost every night within the hour before going to sleep.
"Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep," says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.  "This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need."
Computer or laptop use is also common. Roughly six in ten (61%) say they use their laptops or computers at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. More than half of generation Z'ers (55%) and slightly less of generation Y'ers (47%) say they surf the Internet every night or almost every night within the hour before sleep.
"My research compares how technologies that are ‘passively received' such as TVs and music versus those with ‘interactive' properties like video games, cell phones and the Internet may affect the brain differently," says Michael Gradisar, PhD, Flinders University (Australia). "The hypothesis is that the latter devices are more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process. If you feel that these activities are alerting or causing you anxiety, try doing something more ‘passive' to help you wind down before bed."
Generation Z'ers (36%) and generation Y'ers (28%) are about twice as likely as generation X'ers (15%) and baby boomers (12%) to say they play a video game within the hour before bedtime at least a few times a week. More than one in ten (14%) of generation Z'ers say they do so every night or almost every night before going to sleep.
"Over the last 50 years, we've seen how television viewing has grown to be a near constant before bed, and now we are seeing new information technologies such as laptops, cell phones, video games and music devices rapidly gaining the same status," says Lauren Hale, PhD, Stony Brook University Medical Center. "The higher use of these potentially more sleep-disruptive technologies among younger generations may have serious consequences for physical health, cognitive development and other measures of wellbeing."
Cell phone use, specifically texting and talking on the phone, shows a significant age gap. More than half of generation Z'ers (56%) and nearly half of generation Y'ers (42%) say they send, read or receive text messages every night or almost every night in the hour before bed compared to 15% of generation X'ers and 5% of baby boomers.
Cell phones were sometimes a sleep disturbance. About in one in ten of generation Z'ers (9%) say that they are awakened after they go to bed every night or almost every night by a phone call, text message or email. About one in five of generation Y'ers (20%) and generation Z'ers (18%) say this happens at least a few nights a week.
"Unfortunately cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day," says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, Vice Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation."

Oh, Hi there! Welcome back to the blog. Pretty interesting stuff if you like statistics and stuff.

So, instead of cutting out electronics, a great dev team over at "Urbandroid" developed a nifty app called Twilight (click to download) that works by slowly adding a soft red filter over your screen starting at a time you designate. The app effectively filters out the blues over time to reduce your exposure to the type of light that inhibits your secretion of that oh so sweet melatonin.

The app will automatically set itself based on the sunset and sunrise times of the location you live, but you can tweak things like the time it starts and ends, and the intensity of the effect.

I did find that it takes some getting use to, but once you have it, you will notice a difference, instead of staying up late enough to get to the weird side of youtube, You might just find yourself nodding off during that cute gif of the puppies.

So, does Twilight get the beard of approval?

This app is Beard approved! Download it now. Be less grumpy tomorrow.

Get Twilight Here: Twilight 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tech Bytes Review: Ringke® Fusion

Ringke's Official Website describes the Fusion as

"Ringke FUSION is completed with shock absorption
TPU bumper with anti-scratch coated PC clear back."
Now, I use to be a huge fan of cases with cool colors, ultimate protection, and style. However, over the years, the phones have become sleeker, sexier, and just nicer to look at. Since my LG G2, I have been doing clear cases. I have gone through quite a few. I've rocked a Spigen, other various brands whose names I can't remember. Flexible, sturdy, you name it.

I am always disappointed by clear cases. I want to be able to view my device as it was meant to be viewed without risking my phone being scratched and scuffed. What's the use, however, if the case I'm using ends up looking like crap after one week of lying on my desk. The clarity on most cases go from perfect, to terrible in no time.

However, when I got my G2, I purchased my first Ringke Fusion. I was pleasantly surprised when the case held up for about a week. I ended up selling the G2 and buying a Galaxy Note 4. Without really having the chance to put the Ringke Fusion through its paces, I decided to buy another for the Note 4. I HATED the Note 4. It's bulky UI drove me crazy, so once again I offloaded it after about 2 weeks, and upgraded to the LG G3.

Anyhow, skip ahead, and I have now had this case on a total of about 7 devices. Every time I buy a Ringke Fusion, I am overly impressed. Their claim of an "anti-scratch" coating is no exaggeration.

To be fair, I'm not exactly rough on my devices, but after months of use, I have yet to have one of their cases scratch or scuff.

They have very durable covers on the Headphone Jack and Charger (except on the USB-C devices) I've noticed. At least the new Nexus devices had no USB Cover, which I am sure there is a reason for. The nice thing is that the opening near the port is flexible and accommodates after market cables very nicely. Here is a picture of my Nexus 6P

This is a welcome addition because everyone knows the frustration of buying a new case, and the ports being small. Having to remove your case every time you want to charge can be frustrating.

For those devices where the case DOES have the covers, I have never had one show even the slightest signs of becoming weak or breaking off. In Fact, I got brave one night and tried to physically yank the USB port cover off my G4 Ringke Fusion, and was unable to do so.

Speaking of my LG G4. It's not all rainbows and unicorns with this case. They had an issue with some of their cases that they were quick to address. The issue was that in an attempt to improve protection they had 2 separate openings on the back of the G4. One for the camera, and one for the flash. These were separated with a piece of clear TPU. The result was an unfavorable light bleed from the flash to the camera. The LED lit up the clear TPU reflecting unwanted light onto the lens of the G4. If you are one of the few people that picked up one of these earlier cases, it can be remedied by applying a liberal amount of sharpie to the inside edges of the opening. If you have a black phone you won't notice it!

I'm not sure if Ringke is replacing the old cases or not. They did however, redesign the case, so that the rear opening is larger.

Getting back to the two devices I currently have in hand.

The other thing that is notable about the Ringke Fusion with the 6P in particular is their attention to the visor (which has already had some blowback and issues from the nexus community).

Spigen's variant of the clear case leave the visor completely unprotected, while Ringke makes an effort to actually protect that oh so sensitive glass visor. I don't really understand the logic behind Spigen's lack of protection. There is nothing in most of the visor aside from the obvious Camera and flash, which Ringke leave open (with no stupid TPU between the two).

As for the 3.5 MM port cover, It is tight, and sturdy. Very strong, not unlike my LG G4 charging port. I gave it a good tug and it stretched nicely, but bounced right back into place.

On most devices, they have the standard Clear and Smoke colors, but for a select few devices, you might be lucky to get one with a little flare like my wife's Nexus 6.

You can see the port covers are quite nice and flush, they are easy to remove, and hard to break.

Overall, This really is, in my opinion, the best clear case you can currently buy.

And if you are unfortunate enough to have tried to purchase a slick wrap, this case will be the only way you can even come close to getting it fit right and not have any rigid edges.

In Summation. Does the Ringke Fusion get the beard of approval?

 INDEED! Go out and buy one for your device!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nexus 5X Vs Nexus 6P. Which is best for you?

Let's just cut through all the crap, and clear the muddy waters. Maybe I can help you make a decision.

This year has presented some unique challenges for us Android fans. In the past, Google has been very consistent with releasing a new Nexus Device every year. It was easy because we didn't have a choice. This year, Google threw us a curve ball and released 2 new devices.

Now we have to choose between the "premium" phablet, or the "budget" phone. "The P stands for premium." That's what google told us at the conference, leading us to believe that the 5X was just a cheap substitute. Obviously Google wants to sell more of the 6P. It's the higher end device, and it's made in China, so it's got a high profit margin.

It left many people scratching their heads. Nobody should have to sacrifice specs just because they want a phone that has a smaller, more manageable size.

When you push aside all the specs, it honestly comes down to personal preferences.

I'll tell you why the difference in the specs shouldn't matter to you. Lately, it's been all about the big race. Who can cram the most cores in their processor, the most RAM in the phone, and the most megapixels in the camera. Don't get me wrong, those things matter....on most devices.

However, comparing a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 with a Nexus 6P just isn't fair. These phone go head to head in almost every way on paper. However, the Note 5 has a bulky resource hungry UI (touchwiz). So, the Galaxy eats up that RAM and Processing power. A vanilla/stock android experience with less RAM and a less powerful processor is going to give you similar user experiences.

With that being said, it still doesn't address the impact when comparing the 2 nexus devices. They are running the same OS and have notable differences on paper.

The 6P boasts a Octa-core processor and 3 GB of RAM and an ever so slightly better GPU
The 5X rocks a Hexa-core processor and 2 GB of RAM

What does that mean? Exactly jack. I have owned and used both devices. My Nexus 5X was just as zippy as the 6P.

My last phone was an LG G Flex 2. A highly underrated monster from earlier this year. Under the hood was the very same Processor as the 6P and 3 GB of RAM. I wrestled with going to 5X because I was losing that 1 GB of RAM. I ended up doing it anyway, and the 5X was WAAAAAAY more responsive than my G Flex 2. I was shocked...

It's like I said earlier. That G Flex 2 was not stock. It was running Optimus UX. LG's poor attempt at an overlay.

So, this is where we get back to our personal preferences.

The 5X feels light and hollow (some would say cheap). I happen to think the phone is beautiful. It's sleek, thin, and an easy to handle 5.2 in LCD screen that makes it easy to one hand. Both the new Nexus devices have the same camera. The battery on the 5X got me through an average work day most of the time, but whenever it didn't, I was able to top up in about 30-45 minutes thanks to USB-C quick charging.

The 6P is a monster. It's very large, and its aluminum body makes it heavy and slippery. The visor on the top rear of the phone houses the camera assembly and antenna. This makes the phone top heavy. Couple that with the slippery finish, and you could quite easily find it slipping through your hands. I can't really tell the difference in performance when starting or using apps between the 5X despite the extra processing power and memory. The screen is an AMOLED which is all the rage these days, but you can't really tell the difference unless you have the devices side by side.

If you like to use your device to play the latest and greatest mobile games then the 6P will shine. That extra memory, powerful processor, and better GPU will make a notable difference when playing those games.

If you want a smaller and more manageable device, don't let words like "budget" and "mid-tier" throw you off. The Nexus 5X is still a fantastic phone, and arguably one of the best on the markets.

I chose the 6P strictly because I was use to the phablet screen size. I still find myself pining for the sleek and light 5X, but I am very happy with my purchase. It's just up to you what you want. Don't look at the spec sheets. Think about what YOU want out of your phone.

Now wait a minute RJ....What about all the terrible things I'm hearing about the new devices. #bendgate (i hate that term)

So you want to be an "early adapter". You want the latest and greatest Nexus device, but you don't want to sift through all the reviews, and problems of the new devices. Then buy the Moto Nexus 6, and wait until next year.

Being an early adapter means, that you are taking a risk. No devices are perfect. There is no unicorn device that is perfect at the time of release.

With that being said...let me clear up this "6P Bending issue". It's not an issue. That guy that bent two of these phones with relative ease is a meathead. He is built like a tank, and very strong. If you havent seen his instagram, his pasttimes include flipping tractor tires and bench pressing sexy women. Not to mention, nobody is going to exert that much force on a phone during normal use. Square Trade did a test and found that it takes 170 lbs of force to break the device. That's a lot.

The back visor "shattering" issue, is something I am still researching. There have been a handful of people that have posted on reddit and show their rear visor spontaneously combusting. I'm not saying they are lying...but we also don't know the whole story. Sure, it could be legit. If it is, my money is going on the aluminum body with temperature fluctuations putting stress on the visor glass. I think that it would be easy to inadvertently break that glass and not realize it. After all, we spend most of our time looking at the front of the phone, not the back. Not to mention, it does protrude a little bit from the back, so when setting your phone down, the visor is the initial point of contact with the surface.

I am not going to test this, because I am not made of money and I stand firmly against Android Abuse. Until Google or Huawei admit to an issue, or until my phone spontaneously shatters, I'm calling BS on this one too.

The 5X has its own issue. Mainly, the screen. This one holds some stock. My 5x had a stuck pixel right out of the box. I hardly noticed it, and even when I knew it was there had to really look hard for it. However, I mentioned it to Google, and they sent me an RMA within an hour to replace the device. However, you will have a temporary hold on your credit card until they receive the other unit, unless you have a spare phone laying about.

Other users have complained about yellowing and discoloration of the LCD. There are pictures out there, but again, Google will take care of you on these issues.

I hope this helped you cut through that spec sheet and think a little more clearly about your device choices.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I'll answer them!

Until Next Time!


Welcome to my world!

This blog will be a place to dump my knowledge and opinion on all things Android.

I will be reviewing handsets, apps, accessories, and ROMS.

There will also be tutorials and anything else I want to throw in. If you want to see a review for a specific thing, just post a comment or email me, and I will do my very best to work it in for you.

You control the content!!!

Lots to come, please excuse the potato quality of the layout while I finish construction on the blog.

Stand by for more, and tell your friends and family!