The Bill and Phil Show

Amazon Echo Show

Post by Phillip Hampton on Sep 7, 2017

echoshowA couple of years ago, when we first purchased the Amazon Echo, we predicted that Amazon had a hit with this new voice-activated digital assistant/smart speaker. We were not wrong. In the past two years Amazon has not only sold millions of Echos, but they have expanded the Echo device franchise to include the Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Echo Look, and, now, the Echo Show. If you guessed that we had purchased all of these, you would be correct. Our latest purchase was the Echo Show which offers the biggest upgrade to date to the Echo device lineup.

The distinguishing feature of the Echo Show is that it has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen. All the previous Echo devices are simply speakers of different sizes and shapes that only take input via voice commands or a linked smartphone app. Of course, the Echo Show is still always listening for voice commands, just like the other Echo devices; and it features a very good speaker that can fill a room with music or other audio content. But the touchscreen interface on the Echo Show is what intrigued us and seduced us into forking over $230 for yet another Echo device.

IOS 11 (BETA VERSION) & IPAD PRO—LAPTOP REPLACEMENT AT LAST?

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jul 10, 2017

Ever since Steven Jobs released the first iPad in April 2010, Apple has claimed that the iPad will ultimately replace the laptop computer for both business and personal use. That prediction has yet to come to pass, and, in fact, iPad sales have been decreasing since its sales apex in 2013.

Now, however, Apple has released two new iPad Pro models, and it has released a Beta (trial) version of iOS 11. Apple now claims that when iOS 11 is combined with the iPad Pro models, it truly becomes a “laptop killer.” We have two observations about these developments. First, we are still not convinced that an iPad can be a complete laptop replacement. Second, since we are the suspicious type, we believe Apple has created the new iPad Pro models and iOS 11 in an effort to convince buyers to ditch their old iPads, and buy a new iPad Pro — since the compelling features of the new iOS 11 certainly work best with an iPad Pro.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jun 28, 2017

surface_L_Pivot-Burgundy-pos2_V2Way back in 2012 when Microsoft introduced its first hardware laptop/tablet hybrid, dubbed “Surface”, we were first in line to purchase. Like many of our colleagues, we grew to prefer this hybrid concept over Apple’s iPad. The Surface combined so many of the cool usability features of the iPad and yet retained the functionality of a business-oriented laptop. Bill, of course, still values his iPad and other Apple devices and remains an accomplished ambidextrous Apple/Microsoft consumer. Phil, however, experienced a full-fledged Microsoft conversion when the Surface first appeared and has maintained a cult-like loyalty to the Surface brand. So, it is no surprise that our purchases of Surface products have corresponded very closely with the release dates of each successive Surface release: Surface Pro 2 in 2013, Surface Pro 3 in 2014, Surface Pro 4 in 2015. We waited breathlessly in 2016 for Microsoft’s next iteration of the Surface Pro; but it did not happen.

WIRELESS HEADPHONES—CUTTING THE CORD?

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jun 26, 2017

true wireless headphonesWhen Apple’s iPhone 7 shipped last year, our “geeky” curiosity was aroused. As most of you know, the iPhone7 shipped without a headphone jack. Obviously, Apple is attempting to move the entire Smartphone industry to a new wireless era. As you might expect, we pulled out our respective wallets and begin our wireless headphone spending spree.

First things first. We are not including Apple AirPods in this review. In fact, we have not included any completely “wire-free” headphones in this review. These earbuds are completely wire-free since there is no cable running between the earpieces. Each earbud is completely separate from the other, so you don’t have to worry about cable. However, there are many drawbacks to these wire-free models—such as poor sound quality and battery life, and the ease with which they can be misplaced or lost. So, we do not recommend any completely wire-free headphones. Hopefully, the technology will continue to improve and, when it does, we will be the first to go wire free.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Post by Phillip Hampton on Apr 27, 2017

galaxys8We usually are very eager to be first in line to get the latest and greatest gadgets when they hit retail shelves. However, when Samsung finally released its latest smartphone model, the Galaxy S8, we were a little hesitant to purchase. We had no qualms with the glowing previews we had read about the S8, but we knew that acquiring the S8 meant we had to give up our Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. (We both have one, along with several other phones. Actually, Bill bought the S8+.) Over the past year, the S7 Edge has been the best smartphone on the market in our view, edging out (no pun intended) the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel for smartphone supremacy. So why give up a good thing – no, a great thing – to try something new and unproven? We were told the S8 was every bit as good as the S7 and then some. We’re an easy sell, so it only took a couple minutes of deliberation and we were headed home with the new Galaxy S8 in our bag. Would we love it? Would it catch fire, like the Note 7?

We didn’t want to say that the S8 has made us forget the S7; but that is exactly what has happened. First of all, the S8 is slender and sleek, taller than the S7 and thinner. We tend to like “taller” and “thinner”, even in phones. Phone makers are continuing to pack more screen space into more compact form factors. The S8 feels smaller in your hand (and more accessible, especially for one-handed use); but you don’t feel like you are sacrificing screen real estate in the more compact form factor. Samsung uses what it calls an Infinity screen to create a bezel-less, slightly curved 5.8-inch display. Even the physical Home button at the bottom of the phone has been removed and replaced with a soft Home button on the display. Aesthetically, the S8 hits all the right buttons. If you are clumsy, however, you may want to buy a case for the S8. It is so thin, you may lose your grip on the phone. And, since it is all glass, it is vulnerable when it is dropped from your hands.

SunnyCam

Post by Phillip Hampton on Mar 10, 2017

378877bYou can travel all over the world and experience amazing sights and sounds, but the real joy of those experiences is in sharing what you have seen with family, friends, or even the world (via YouTube). We love to capture life experiences on camera, and, as such, we probably use our smartphones more for photos and videos than phone calls.

The problem with the smartphone cam, however, is that it is sometimes difficult to capture an activity in the moment as we are experiencing it. The desire to capture active scenes such as a run along the beach, a bicycle ride on an autumn day, or parasailing adventure has given rise to a plethora of active cams, with GoPro being one of the more popular ones. These cams are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who wear them conspicuously mounted on top of their bicycle helmet. We love the quality of the video these cameras capture and the hands-free mode of recording, but we don’t particularly like being seen wearing a video cam perched on top of our head and we also don’t care for some of the high price tags these cams carry.

Password Management

Post by Phillip Hampton on Feb 12, 2017

Cybersecurity is without a doubt the biggest burden of being an active user of gadgets and technology. Every e-mail account, bank account, employee benefits portal, travel site, shopping profile, smartphone, smart home device, and, yes, even some of our cookware and cleaning tools require a login ID and password. The default (and very dangerous) reaction to this deluge of portals and devices that require authentication, is to simply use the same user name and password combination that we use for all our accounts. And since we tend to be very forgetful and don’t wish to be inconvenienced, many of us use something immediately recallable for the golden key that unlocks the door to our personal data. Birthdates and spouses’ names are favorite password themes; and they are easily discoverable to rogue snoopers with a cursory internet search. Even more reckless are those who choose the least resistant path to online security with such “stellar” passwords as “password”, “12345”, or the default manufacturer’s password on consumer devices such as Wi-Fi routers, smart gadgets, etc.

 

Tech Trends for 2017 – from CES 2017

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jan 9, 2017

Every year, just after we pack our New Year’s party hats, we print our boarding passes for Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the annual geek fest; and this year’s show did not disappoint, with a record attendance of over 175,000 and over 2.5 million (yes million) square miles of exhibit space. We attend every year, of course, to see the latest and coolest gadgets that may or may not be coming to the market; but, perhaps even more importantly, we attend to get a sense of trends in the tech world that ultimately will impact the way our colleagues and we will work, play, and live in the near future. So, here is what we observed from CES 2017.

Not surprisingly we saw many robots at CES 2017, as we are poised to plunge headlong into the intelligent machine age. There were robots that would interact with you, clean your house, take your order, assist you in a retail environment, mow your lawn, fold your laundry, and the list goes on. Last year we introduced many of our readers and presentation attendees to Amazon’s incredibly popular and engaging Echo (Alexa). Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg in the emerging procession of digital assistant devices. We saw robots that could move throughout your home and respond to voice commands just as Alexa does, but could actually perform manual tasks at your command as well. We really wanted to take one of these home on the flight with us, but security was really tight and those robots are really smart. So, we didn’t try to snatch one.