The Bill and Phil Show

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Post by Phillip Hampton on Mar 23, 2016

Just as surely as the days start getting longer and warmer as the calendar flips into Spring, we begin to get antsy as Samsung and Apple start their annual rollout of new phones.  Not content with last year’s “must have” technology, we usually raid the Spring Break trip fund to pad Samsung’s and Apple’s bottom line by buying their latest and greatest.  This year was no different.  When Samsung revealed the latest incarnation of its immensely popular Galaxy S line of phones, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge,  the question for us was not “if we should buy?”, but “when can we buy?”.  And so, after dispensing no small amount of digital currency from our smart wallet (more on that gadget in a subsequent article), we bought the beautiful and curvy Galaxy S7 Edge.

 

Now we promise we are not geeky pervs, but, out of the box, we have to admit that the S7 Edge is one sexy smart phone.  It is sleek and thin with the beautiful and vibrant display curving around both sides of the phone.  The immediate effect that we noticed is that the viewing experience, whether internet, photos, videos, or even e-mail, is more immersive.  The two-sided curved screen gives the impression of a never ending display that seems to lift the contents off the screen.  The glass and metal body of the phone gives it a sturdy feel without being heavy.  The 5.5 inch display is smaller than Phil’s previous huge Note 5 display but about the same as Bill’s iPhone 6Plus display, but not as large as Bill’s other phone the S6 Edge+.  Phil thought he would have trouble adjusting to a smaller display, but the curved aspect of the display sort of masks its smaller size.  Furthermore, the S7 Edge is a good fit for your hand (even if you happen to have smallish hands like a certain presidential candidate).

s7edge

So the S7 Edge won us over with its sexy looks; but was it smart?  In a word, “Yes!”.  The S7 Edge, running the latest version of Android, Marshmallow, is quick and powerful.  The battery life, which always seems to be a problem with our phones, so far has been phenomenal.  Other reviews that we have read tout a 20-hour battery life.  We haven’t pushed it that far, but we have not dipped passed 50% for day-long activity.  One of the first things we did was to put in a security lock code (as everyone should do to protect your privacy and security).  We were very pleased to try the fingerprint authentication to unlock the phone which works very well.  Also, the camera, as is the case on most recent Samsung phones, takes stunning photos and videos.

The Smart Home Evolution

Post by Phillip Hampton on Mar 2, 2016

We’ve tried smart phones, smart watches, smart shoes, even smart socks; so we thought it was time to bring this smartness home, literally. From the plethora of connected devices now appearing on retail store shelves, it is quite apparent that the era of the “smart home” has arrived. The choices are myriad and a little overwhelming, so our advice is to do like we did and take one step at a time. In other words, we decided to take an evolutionary approach and make our homes smart by introducing new devices and teaching new tricks a little bit at a time. We call this the “smart home evolution”; and it is in full swing with many new exciting things coming down the pike.

51SngfqS5kL[1]The first thing we have noticed about the evolving smart home market is that there are a lot of players with competing products as we witnessed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Iris, Wink, Insteon, WeMo, Philips are just a few of the major players in this market and all have similar product offerings. There is no law that says you have to use devices from only one brand; however, product integration (smart lights, for example) can be easier when they are all of the same brand controlled through a central hub. Probably the most common smart device that many consumers have already been using quite a bit is the smart thermostat, which provides a touch screen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, programmable controls, and “learning” capability. The popular Nest thermostat (now owned by Google) has been around for a few years and is very easy to install and operate. The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is another popular option that we have been using. It has many cool features, but to be honest, the only “smart” feature that we use quite a bit is the ability to adjust the temperature setting remotely via a smartphone app. We most certainly will get around to “training” the thermostat to predict our daily temperature preferences; but alas we are too busy programming all of our other home gadgets.

Bill and Phil CES 2016 Review

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jan 25, 2016

CES_logo1Once again we have just returned from the annual Vegas geek fest known as CES (Consumer Electronics Show). The Las Vegas Convention Center and surrounding hotels were packed to the gills with 170,000+ tech enthusiasts from all over the world. It’s at CES where you see the technology that you can’t exactly purchase…yet. Indeed, some of the tech gadgets, software and hardware that we see on display at the glitzy show never make it to retail shelves. But many of the concepts on display are snapped up by buyers and become hits in the tech world and in our homes and offices. Although we haven’t perfected a system for guessing what the winners and losers will be, we can discern tell-tale trends in the tech industry at large by surveying the vast CES exhibit floor. So, again this year, we donned our comfortable shoes, downloaded the CES exhibit map on our smart phones, and proceeded to log record step counts on our new Fitbit devices as we traversed much of the 2 million+ square feet of exhibit space at CES 2016. From our observations, here are the current tech trends that are most apparent to us:

Bill & Phil’s 2015 Stocking Stuffers

Post by Phillip Hampton on Dec 10, 2015

Ho Ho Ho. Santa called us and wanted some ideas for cool tech stocking stuffers. Seems like that’s what all the kids are wanting these days (us included). So we just made a list of some of our favorite gadgets that will fit nicely in your stocking (and in your budget).

FitBit Charge (www.fitbit.com): We’ve experimented with all sorts of wearables, but really all we need is something that will track our activity, provide basic notifications, and, oh yeah, tell us what time it is. The FitBit Charge fits the bill nicely. The wristband is unobtrusive and comfortable. The battery life is great (7-10 days). And the wireless synch to the FitBit app provides a real-time dashboard of our activity throughout the day. So, forget the expensive “smart watches”, this is all we need for a cool $99.

Samsung Gear VR (www.samsung.com): If your special someone has a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you can get this accessory to experience virtual reality right from your phone. With this headset (and your Galaxy phone), you can participate in games and watch movies in a 360° immersive virtual reality view. The Gear headset is $99.

Logitech K480 Bluetooth Keyboard (www.logitech.com/k480): This Bluetooth keyboard is one of our favorite gadgets for typing on all of our computer devices. With the K480 you can pair the keyboard with up to 3 different devices (maybe your smartphone, tablet, and PC). A selector then lets you choose which device you want to control via the keyboard. No more unpairing, re-pairing as we move from one device to the next. It works on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices and costs $50.

Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Book

Post by Phillip Hampton on Nov 11, 2015

maxresdefault[1]When Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 4, the fourth installment of its popular laptop/tablet hybrid, we were not surprised. Indeed we had been waiting impatiently as the “new” smell on our barely year-old Surface Pro 3 had just begun to wear off. What did catch us by surprise, however, was the introduction at the same time of a brand new laptop device from the folks in Redmond, the Surface Book. We were in a dilemma. Which device should we purchase? The long awaited Surface Pro 4, or this brand new form factor in the Surface Book that nobody saw coming? We settled the conundrum like we usually do. We bought both!

So, Bill took one device; Phil took the other. We each retired to our respective man caves and ran the devices through their paces. We then compared notes and decided that we would indeed keep both devices. There are good uses for each (or at least that was the excuse for us to add to our growing gadgets collection).

First, the Surface Pro 4, as mentioned earlier, is simply an upgrade to an existing product line. We are proud to admit that we have owned every iteration of this product since its inception in 2012. That being said, we were not particularly impressed with the early models. Microsoft finally put out a winner in 2014 with the Surface Pro 3. Now, the Surface Pro 4 builds on that successful release and adds even more reasons to upgrade. The first thing we noticed with the new Pro 4 is that it is actually thinner (and a bit lighter) than the Pro 3 model; however, the viewable screen surface is actually a shade larger. So far so good…we were duly impressed even before pressing the power button. After booting up the device, we noted, of course, that the device comes with Windows 10, which we have readily adopted on all of our PC devices, and find to be incredibly more accessible and business-friendly than Windows 8. We also noticed that Microsoft has increased the resolution on the Pro 4 screen even more, making the display beautifully bright and sharp. Other than the updated Windows 10 interface changes and the brighter screen, however, the Pro 4 pretty much functions the same as the Pro 3 model.

Amazon Echo Review

Post by Phillip Hampton on Nov 2, 2015

Amazon Echo

We saw it advertised on TV. It looked silly, slightly weird, and not really a practical gadget. So, of course, we bought it. We’re talking about Amazon Echo, a sort of wireless speaker/cloud connected know-it-all/digital assistant. Pre-conceived notions aside, however, Echo made a great first impression on us, and we have been using it quite a bit ever since.

Echo is really just a Bluetooth wireless speaker that comes equipped with voice-activated software that allows you to dictate commands, such as play music, read the news, give a weather update, or just answer some off-the-wall queries á la Siri. The speaker itself is housed in a weird looking tube that will not be mistaken for a decorative vase in your office or home, but as far as Bluetooth speakers go, it’s actually pretty good. It won’t replace our Bose or SoundBlaster Roar as our speaker of choice, but it’s a lot better than our smartphone speakers and some of the other less expensive pieces in our growing Bluetooth speaker collection.

Gadget of the Month – IOS 9 and Apple Watch OS 2

Post by Phillip Hampton on Oct 28, 2015

IOS 9 and Apple Watch OS 2

Where Is the Love?

As you all know, Bill has always been a fan of Apple and the innovations it has introduced over the years. Phil is still unimpressed. Phil is of the opinion that Apple’s latest innovations are mainly figments of the tech writers who heap endless amounts of kudos upon Apple products. The latest Apple tech “advances”, iOS 9 and Apple Watch OS 2, have Bill moving closer to Phil’s view of the Apple Dynasty.

Apple Watch OS 2

Apple released the two operating systems in late September (although not simultaneously because “bugs” in the new Apple Watch OS had to be worked out). There was quite a bit of fanfare in the technical press leading up to the release of these OS’s, although not quite as much as usual. After trying out both, on our Apple Watches, iPads and iPhones, even Bill is unimpressed.

Here are some specifics. Bill has always used and loved the Apple Notes App. (Phil calls it a poor substitute for Microsoft’s OneNote.) Still, the Notes App was always quick, easy to use and handy. You could sync it with your Notes folder in Microsoft Exchange, and it has always been a handy tool for jotting down ideas and “to dos” quickly. Apple touted the new Notes App as much more robust – adding checklists, bulleted lists, numbered lists, formatting, advanced sharing, inserting pictures and handwriting, etc. So, Bill anxiously awaited 2 pm Central Daylight time on September 16, and immediately downloaded iOS 9 onto his iPad and iPhone. Frustration ensued. First, it took several starts and shutdowns of the App and his iPad to get the formatting, etc. to work. Second, those features were only available if Bill stored the note in iCloud. Consequently, you cannot sync full-featured notes with Exchange – making the App much less handy, if you use the formatting features.