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How important are app reviews to you? Jun 20th 2013, 16:20
Every day in my Twitter stream, I see people talking about applications. The best, or newest, calendar replacement app. Or the newest and flashiest calculator. Maybe it’s a way to aggregate a bunch of news pieces from across the Internet, or just a news app in general. Of course, there are plenty of people talking about the next best game you should download, too. Whatever the case, the conversation about apps hasn’t grown quiet since their introduction all those years ago. In fact, the focus on the apps, the ecosystems they inhabit, and the sheer number available has only intensified.

So it’s easy to surmise that apps are important. It’s one reason why some people refuse to use mobile operating systems like BlackBerry 10. It’s another reason why some think a platform like Windows Phone may never really take off. And, others would point to Apple’s iOS success because of the apps made available. The angles you can take on how important apps are, both in the negative and positive for a company or developer, are innumerable.

The end result is the same, though: They’re too important to ignore.

And consumers don’t ignore them. They download them by the tens of thousands, if not millions. If you gain enough popularity within any specific digital retail location, be it the App Store, the Appstore, Google Play Store, Windows Phone Store, or BlackBerry World (or any other), then your chances to rake in the dough multiply exponentially.

Gaining that popularity can be a tricky slope, though, can’t it? The same can be said for gaining any type of popularity I imagine, but with apps it can make or break a developer’s dream. With so many different avenues, though, the chances are at least good, one can hope. At least there are chances, right?

One way to get a quick head start? Attention from websites that review applications. If you make a good enough app, you’ll gain the attention of these sites, and even more down the line. It’s a good way to get your foot in the door, at least, especially when you look at how jam packed with apps these digital stores are.

The other way, though, is from app reviews right there in those stores. The reviews that people can see right when they check out the app. Where there are ratings, words, +1s, thumbs pointing up, or whatever else to signify an app is good or bad. Worth the download, or not really worthy of anything at all.

I download my fair share of apps every month. So many, sometimes, that a monthly allowance wouldn’t be a bad idea. And, from time to time, I’ll check out the app reviews before I hit that download button. I have found, though, that I read these just to pass time, or to see what others are saying about the app or game I’m currently installing. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a review that has prevented me from downloading something.

While I may not read reviews to sway my decision one way or another, I know that they do play a role in whether or not I even see an app in a digital store. Those ratings that I may not read are all aggregated to put together an overall score, which will lead to a higher placement in the store rankings if that’s how the rankings work.

So, they still matter to me. I may not read the details, but I get the gist thanks to those ranking stars. It’s like the Cliff Notes version, and I’m okay with that. Oh, and while I’ve rated apps in the past, I don’t think I’ve ever actually written a review for an app or game in an online store. Not yet, anyway.

So how do you feel about app reviews? Do you actually read the reviews people have written for some apps, before you buy or download it? Or do you just look at the stars, and make a determination from that? Do you skip them entirely, and just go off what you find out on your own? Let me know!

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Aio Wireless rolls out 4G LTE service and expands to new markets, says ZTE Overture coming soon Jun 20th 2013, 16:05
ZTE Overture Aio WirelessIt was just a little over a month ago that Aio Wireless first launched as a prepaid provider that operates on AT&T’s HSPA network, but today the company announced a pretty major addition to its service that ought to make it more appealing to consumers in the markets where Aio is available.

Aio revealed this morning that it’s rolling out 4G LTE service, giving customers with LTE-capable hardware access to the AT&T LTE network that’s available in 278 markets. The company currently sells a couple of LTE-capable handsets, including the Galaxy Express and iPhone 5, and Aio says that it will push a software update to consumers that will enable their hardware to access the LTE network.

In addition to its existing LTE offerings, Aio announced today that it plans to launch the LTE-enabled ZTE Overture within the next month. The Overture features a 4-inch touchscreen, 5-megapixel rear camera, secondary front-facing camera and a microSD slot with support for cards up to 32GB in size. ZTE’s Overture is powered by Android Jelly Bean.

Aio Wireless also provided an update on its service rollout. Both Ft. Meyers and Naples, Fla., have been added to the list of markets that Aio is available in, joining the existing group of towns that includes Houston, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Gainesville, Fla. Aio says that it plans to continue to expand its presence to more cities later this year.

Aio offers a handful of different rate plans for dumbphones, smartphones and tablets. A tablet-only plan is available for $15 per month and offers 250MB of data, while smartphone customers can sign up for a $55 plan that includes unlimited talk, text and data with 2GB of high-speed data or a $70 offering that’s also unlimited but bumps the high-speed data allotment up to 7GB.

It’s good to see Aio add LTE service, especially since it’s only been a little over a month since the provider first broke onto the scene. AT&T recently added LTE support to its own GoPhone prepaid service, meaning that consumers interested in a prepaid operator with LTE service now have a couple more options. Looking at the plans available from Aio and AT&T, it looks like AT&T’s GoPhone service could be good for lighter data users, while Aio and its bigger data buckets may be a better option for power users (provided you live in an area where Aio is available, natch). Now that it’s added LTE service, what do you think of Aio Wireless? Would you sign up for Aio if it were available in your town?

Via AT&T (Image credit)

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NVIDIA SHIELD price cut to $299, launch set for June 27 Jun 20th 2013, 14:20
NVIDIA SHIELD openNVIDIA announced a little over a month ago that its Android 4.2-powered SHIELD gaming handheld would launch in June for $349, but today the company has announced a small change of plans. Fortunately for anyone interested in picking up a SHIELD of their own, the change is a good one.

NVIDIA took to its official blog this morning to reveal that it has cut the price of the SHIELD by $50, meaning that the device will now cost $299. The company also confirmed the precise launch date for SHIELD, saying that it will officially be released on June 27. The SHIELD is currently available for pre-order from NVIDIA’s online shop. Customers that’ve already placed a pre-order for the handheld will receive the lower $299 price.

The NVIDIA SHIELD is a handheld gaming system that’s powered by Android Jelly Bean and features a 5-inch 1280×720 touchscreen. Inside the SHIELD is a quad-core Tegra 4 processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, microSD card slot and 802.11n 2×2 Mimo Wi-Fi support. All of those specs form a recipe for what looks to be a beefy handheld gaming machine, and I’m sure that anyone that’s already pre-ordered a unit will be pleased to learn that they’ve now got an extra $50 to drop on new games to help break it in. What do you think of the NVIDIA SHIELD? Has this $50 price cut convinced any of you to pull the trigger (button) on one?

Via NVIDIA

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Verizon Galaxy S III maintenance update rolling out to users [UPDATED] Jun 20th 2013, 12:55
Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III VRBMDF1 updateSome Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III owners began experiencing issues with their handset after installing the recent I535VRBMD3 update that brought with it Multi-Window and a host of other tweaks. The good news is that a week after Verizon acknowledged the problem, it appears to be rolling out a new update to address the connectivity woes caused by the previous update.

As noted by Droid-Life, Verizon’s Galaxy S III is currently receiving an update to software version I535VRBMDF1. Several owners of the device have already been bumped up to the latest software, reporting that their data connectivity appears to have returned to normal after installation. Verizon hasn’t yet posted its official documentation for the VRBMDF1 update, so it’s not yet clear exactly what’s inside, but we could see that information posted soon now that the new software is making its way to users.

It’s never good to hear about consumers having issues with their handset after installing an update, and that’s especially true with this recent update for Verizon’s Galaxy S III. It was a major update for the device that brought with it several new features and bug fixes, but some folks ended up holding off on installing it, missing out on those goodies so that they didn’t have to risk running into the same connectivity issues that others were having. Thankfully, it didn’t take Samsung and Verizon too long to put together a new update to address the issues caused by the previous one.

I’ll update you once Verizon posts the changelog for the VRBMDF1 update. Until then, you Verizon Galaxy S III owners can let us know once the update hits your device down in the comments below.

UPDATE: Verizon has posted the full changelog for the I515VRMMF1 update. The new changelog is pretty similar to the old one, but it does add support for the VMWare Horizon Mobile Switch app as well as a mysterious “Google Security Patch.” The update is listed as weighing in at 116MB. You can find Verizon’s VRBMF1 changelog below:

KEY DEVICE ENHANCEMENTS ENABLE YOU TO:

  • Access your Wi-Fi connection easily on multiple devices when in Hotspot mode
  • Use ‘bill to my Verizon Wireless Account’ when buying apps from Google Play
  • Access phone screen without unlocking device when connected via Bluetooth headset
  • Use two apps simultaneously side-byside with Multi Screen and Multi Window
  • Categorize and display images, photos and videos with Samsung Gallery
  • Sync two devices and share content seamlessly with S Beam’s ‘Auto Share Shot’
  • Transfer content easily between devices with Samsung Smart Switch tool
  • Get popup suggestions from Page Buddy when connected to accessories like a wired stereo headset
  • Tag weather, people and place information in photos and video with Contextual Tag
  • Arrange apps in order of frequency of use for faster access with Contextual App Link
  • Pick the perfect group picture from five burst shots with ‘Best Shot’
  • Select and customize specific folders by category and file type with My Files tool
  • Save MMS attachments in your Gallery for quick posting and sharing
  • Create a variety of image styles with Paper Artist tool

ADDITIONAL UPDATES INCLUDE:

  • Removed pop-up messages ‘Refreshing SIM Data’, ‘No SIM’ and ‘SD Card Inserted’
  • New message notification tone is no longer clipped
  • Devices remain in 4G mode without dropping to 3G when Hotspot is on
  • The Burst Shot setting is no longer the default setting in the Camera application
  • Consistent functionality of the Screen Time Out feature
  • Applications running prior to sleep mode will remain open when home key is pressed
  • Backspace button will no longer clear an entire sentence – only the intended word
  • Support for VMware Horizon Mobile Switch Application has been added to provide a secure, separate environment for your business appllications on the same device. For more information, please visit http://vmware.com/mobile
  • Fixed an issue where web browsing would sometimes cause the device to reset
  • Lock screen function improved when screen is idle
  • NFC is now easier to turn on
  • Device is now recognized by the computer when connected via USB cable
  • Audio distortion fixed when connected to some Car Kits is resolved
  • All devices can now receive over-the-air software updates
  • Voice recognition performance is improved with the updated S Voice Application
  • ‘Remove All’ is now ‘Close All’ in the Task Manager menu
  • Google Security Patch has been added

ADDED THE FOLLOWING PRELOADED APPLICATIONS:

  • Catch up on news easily with the Flipboard
  • Recognize contacts quickly with Caller Name ID application version 1.14.16

Via Droid-Life, Verizon Wireless

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Nokia Lumia 920 Challenge, Day 22: Benefits of Windows Phone 8 Jun 20th 2013, 12:40
In this update to the Nokia Lumia 920 challenge, I’ve talked at length about the challenges Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 needs to overcome in order to be successful in the mobile space, so in this video, I’m flipping topic to the benefits of Windows Phone 8. Microsoft’s OS is easy to use and offers fantastic fluidity across the board, but beyond that, it brings to the table some fantastic features like an integrated People Hub and Live Tile integration for customization. The ecosystem could be better and Microsoft’s Store needs more of the big-name apps,but make no doubt about it – there are some great things to like about Windows Phone.

What would you like to see covered in the final videos of the Nokia Lumia 920 challenge? Let me know on Twitter @PhoneDog_Aaron!

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Smartphones that are centered around social networking platforms will never work Jun 19th 2013, 16:45
As a person who has grown up with social networking websites, I can honestly say I’m addicted to them. It started out as a simple Xanga blog with gems like, “AUUUUUUGHHHHHH WHAT IS UP WITH MY COMMENTS?! THAT’S RIGHT, NOTHING, BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE!” (Actual excerpt from my Xanga in 2005). After Xanga fizzled (probably because I didn’t get any comments) I moved to MySpace, where you never really updated anything other than your profile picture and/or relationship status. I’m not sure when I decided to jump ship from MySpace to Facebook, but I imagine it was at the point when music and entertainment became the main focus of MySpace instead of connecting with your friends. Facebook is still where I currently spend most of my social networking time, but along with Facebook you have other popular choices like Twitter and Google+.

Along with the rise and fall of different social networking sites, the methods used to visit these types of websites have also changed. Physically sitting at a computer used to be the easiest way to visit these websites, but with the development of smartphones and the app markets that come with them social networking has been taken to a whole new level of convenience when it comes to updating your status, uploading a photo, or sharing media with each other. A designated application was the perfect solution to give users the full experience of a social network from our phones without having to deal with the limitations of traditional “mobile” versions. And that’s all that social networks ever needed.

We’ve seen HTC come to pass with not one, but two “Facebook phones” that have tried and failed. The HTC ChaCha was the first Facebook phone that flopped. This was back in 2011, back when nobody was joking when they called an Android phone “low end”. It was pretty much guaranteed to give you problems sooner rather than later. Top it off with the fact that any Android phone could download a Facebook app just as easily and this phone didn’t offer anything extra special other than a designated Facebook button – whoopty-doo! The phone was pretty much doomed from the start.

The second device was more recent – the HTC First. The HTC First was advertised as the new “Facebook phone” featuring a new launcher, Facebook Home. This is likely what truly threw off its sales. After we got our hands on the product, we found out that it actually made a pretty solid nearly-stock Android device once you turned the Facebook Home launcher off. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done: it had already been branded as “The Facebook Phone”, and therefore anybody not interested in a Facebook phone most likely dismissed it without question.

Facebook Home makes for a nice alternative launcher for those who are interested, but I feel like it should have only ever been launched as that – an alternative launcher. The HTC First should have been launched as an almost-vanilla Android device with an emphasis on the option to download Facebook Home.

So we already have two failed phones that tried to make it work with a modern, popular social networking platform. Today, tech news website Ars Technica revealed that Samsung reportedly turned away Facebook, who was springing the idea to make yet another Facebook phone. Good on you for learning from HTC, Samsung; but Facebook… come on. The whole “third time is a charm” thing doesn’t work for everything.

Realistically, a phone that’s created to center around one social network will never work. I mean honestly, every smartphone is already a Facebook phone; every phone is also a Twitter phone, a LinkedIn phone, a YouTube phone, a Reddit phone, a whatever you want it to be phone. That’s what we like about them – the ability to add and remove different elements as they come and go from our lives. Social networking sites are unpredictably disposable. They come and go. They start off simple, they get big, they get greedy, and people leave; to the left, to the left. Move on to the next social networking site, delete the previous app, and download the new one. Voila. Everybody’s happy.

We don’t need a Facebook Phone, a Twitter Phone, or a whatever-other-website-happens-to-be-popular at the time phone; just let the manufacturers stick to making good hardware, and the social networking sites stick to honing on their respective apps. It’s just that simple.

Images via Facebook, Technology Review

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LG: Optimus G successor will be powered by Snapdragon 800 processor Jun 19th 2013, 16:25
LG Optimus G rearLG hasn’t officially announced the follow-up to last year’s Optimus G flagship, but tonight the manufacturer revealed one of the pieces of hardware that’ll be inside the upcoming smartphone. LG and Qualcomm have confirmed that the successor to the Optimus G will be powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor.

The two companies say that the Snapdragon 800 offers 75 percent better performance than the Snapdragon S4 Pro that powered the original Optimus G (OG OG?) as well as an enhanced architecture that’ll offer dynamic power sensing and control, which will lead to optimum performance from each core as well as improved battery life. Also included with the Snapdragon 800 is an Adreno 330 GPU, Ultra HD video capture and playback capabilities and support for 4G LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation, which maximizes spectrum bandwidth to provide faster data speeds and lower latency.

There’s not much else that we know about LG’s Optimus G follow-up, but the fact that it’ll come to market with a Snapdragon 800 chip means that it’ll like be a device that spec hounds will want to keep an eye out for. LG previously said that the next Optimus G will debut sometime in Q3 2013, so as long as the company can stick to that timeframe, we should start hearing more about the future flagship in the coming months. What other features would you like to see LG include in its Optimus G successor?

Via LG Newsroom

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U.S. Cellular’s Samsung Galaxy S III receiving update with Multi-Window and other new features Jun 19th 2013, 11:55
Samsung Galaxy S III Marble WhiteMulti-Window is one of the most popular features of Samsung’s Galaxy series of Android products, allowing the user to run two apps at once by giving each app half of their device’s screen. The feature has been steadily making its way to U.S. carrier branded Galaxy S III models recently, including those on T-Mobile and Verizon, and today another operator is bringing Multi-Window to its Galaxy S III.

U.S. Cellular has announced a new update for its flavor of the Galaxy S III that will bring it up to baseband version R530UVXAMD4. The update brings with it Samsung’s Premium Suite of features that it originally announced for the Galaxy S III late in 2012. U.S. Cellular’s list of features that are included with this Premium Suite update is as follows:

  • Multi-Window – 2 applications can be operating at the same time by dividing the screen into 2 windows
  • Contextual Page – Device suggests the apps and the widget related to status of device
  • Contextual Tag – (1) Tag Weather, place and people information automatically when user take photo or video. (2) Add place and time information on voice recordings file name when it was created.
  • Contextual Menu – Arrange applications in order of frequency of usage in Task Manager and Attachment list
  • Samsung Gallery – Categorize and show photos and videos
  • My Files – My Files option is turned on like Galaxy Note II

U.S. Cellular says that this new update is currently making its way to Galaxy S III owners over the air, so if you count yourself as part of that group, you’ll want to keep an eye out for an update notification in the coming days. A manual update method is also planned for those users that don’t want to wait for the OTA push, but that option is currently unavailable because the new software hasn’t been uploaded to Samsung or U.S. Cellular’s sites yet. While we wait to hear more, why don’t you U.S. Cellular Galaxy S III owners watch for the OTA and start making a list of all the apps that you want to run side-by-side with Multi-Window?

Via Android Police, U.S. Cellular: Facebook, Android downloads

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Megapixels still matter to me, just not as much Jun 19th 2013, 11:00
Alright, so I kinda sorta have a confession that I feel like I need to get off my chest: Despite all that has been said about the subject, megapixels still matter to me. It’s taken me a little while to realize this, but it’s true. I have a total bias against cameras that don’t have at higher megapixel count, despite the fact that we’ve recently found out that it’s really not so much about the megapixels that make a good image, but more so the type of features that a camera uses.

Taiwanese company HTC recently attempted to debunk the theory that just because a camera has a higher megapixel count doesn’t necessarily mean that the resulting pictures have better quality. They did this by releasing a 4-megapixel “UltraPixel” camera, which ultimately (to make a long explanation short) means that a sensor in the camera is bigger in order to help capture light better in a photo and help reduce noise. There’s a far more technical way of explaining it, but without knowing much about photography myself I’m fairly certain I would butcher the terminology into oblivion. I initially applauded HTC’s execution of showing the world that megapixels don’t always mean “better”. However, even comparisons show that the HTC’s low megapixel count can sell itself short in some aspects of a photo.

I can’t shake the opinion that megapixels still mean something, and I know that it has something to do with the fact that the word ‘megapixels’ have been drilled into my head since the very early days of camera phones. The first camera phone that was introduced to the market was the Nokia 7650 in 2002 – that’s just a little over ten years ago. It featured a 0.3-megapixel camera, and if you asked anybody what they thought of a camera phone at the time, they’d probably tell you it was the bees’ knees. Phones with a camera included would quickly become an industry standard from that point on.

As time passed, the shooter on the back of a phone only seemed to get better: 0.3-megapixels, 1.3-megapixels, 3.2-megapixels, 5-megapixels, 8-megapixels, 13-megapixels, and even 41-megapixels. Up until the point where the HTC One arrived on the market we had primarily been focused on increasing the megapixel count. Did the images really improve from the 0.3-megapixel cameras of the early 2000’s to the 8 or 13-megapixels we have today? Of course they did. If you compare any 0.3-megapixel image with a 13-megapixel image you’re going to notice a world of difference: less “noise”, easily identifiable objects, and clearer images are what you’re going to find. Megapixels aren’t entirely irrelevant – I believe there is still a pretty big importance to them to an extent.

While megapixels still matter to me, I think we have passed the point where they really need to expand for the average user. There is a finite point where megapixels provide any relevance to how good an image turns out; the rest depends on other features. That being said, I think HTC is on the right track with the One in getting the most out of a smartphone camera (we do have to realize that these cameras are not meant to offer us a professional experience – they will have flaws). Through most comparisons I’ve seen between the HTC One’s camera and other cameras of higher megapixel count you can see that the UltraPixel camera does something right, especially in low-lit situations. Many tests determined that the HTC One has even matched up with the highly-praised Nokia Lumia 920 camera (which has impressed me in almost all types of photographic situations). It’s when you start to crop and zoom with the UltraPixel camera where the real problem becomes evident. Phones with higher megapixel count will give you better detail with crop and zoom compared to the UltraPixel, and as a person who often crops and zooms on images, that becomes somewhat of a problem for me.

My point here is that smartphone cameras like the UltraPixel, which does a decent job of proving that other features of a camera are also important, also show that megapixels still have an advantage in ways that sensors alone cannot enhance. So instead of me saying that megapixels don’t matter, I’m going to change my stance and rephrase it by saying that megapixels don’t matter as much as I once thought they did. They still matter, but megapixels aren’t the only thing that make a camera take good pictures.

Readers, what is your stance on a camera’s megapixels? Do you still take megapixel count into consideration when comparing smartphone cameras? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Thumbnail Image via Digital Trends

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Microsoft was reportedly close to buying Nokia’s devices arm Jun 19th 2013, 09:55
Steve Ballmer, Stephen ElopMicrosoft and Nokia have been working together as a Windows Phone team ever since they formed a “strategic partnership” in early 2011, but according to a new report, the two companies very nearly became much more than that. Sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal claim that Microsoft and Nokia were recently involved in “advanced discussions” about a deal that would see Microsoft buy Nokia’s device business.

According to the tipsters, Microsoft and Nokia made “significant progress” on a potential deal and were close to reaching an oral agreement. The talks are said to have taken place in London as recently as this month. However, the discussions have reportedly hit a snag as of late, with one source adding that the two firms are unlikely to start up the talks again. Microsoft allegedly walked away from the potential deal due to its price and Nokia’s standing behind Apple and Samsung in the mobile industry.

Microsoft and Nokia have been close partners ever since early 2011, but a straight-up Microsoft purchase of Nokia’s devices division would’ve been huge news for the mobile industry. Not only would the deal involve the sale of a part of a major manufacturer, but it’d also mean that Microsoft would be getting more involved in Windows Phone hardware. It’d definitely be interesting to see what kind of products a Microsoft-owned Nokia would churn out, but that could also have the potential to drive off some other Windows Phone device makers (even though Nokia is responsible for a majority of the existing hardware). What do you all make of this rumor? Do you think it’d be a good idea for Microsoft to buy Nokia’s phone business?

Via The Wall Street Journal

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Featured user review Samsung Galaxy Note II 6-19-13 Jun 19th 2013, 08:53
This is one of our giveaway weeks via the Official Smartphone Rankings so be sure to get your vote in! If last week’s third place finisher, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is what you want to win, get to voting! It is currently trending 4th.“Great device overall” By JOE GERARDI on June 18, 2013

Display: Very bright vivid colors on a HUGE 5.5 inch display

Call Quality: Speaker phone was great and produced loud sounds. Non speaker on the other hand, not so great in my use.

Battery Life: What an impressive battery for such a large bright display. Very impressed. Did I say how good it was?

Design: Feels a little better (maybe being heavier) than the s4 with some nice touches with the chrome edges.

Apps: What can I say about Samsungs bloatware and features. Most will never be used by myself but the things I do use work great and have become a staple for my daily use. S pen is not a novelty.

9/10 for this premium device. On a side note i will say there are certain issues with Wifi, namely not being able to keep a stable wifi connection. Eats data if you were unlucky enough to have this problem.

Display 5/5
Battery Life 5/5
Apps & Media Support 5/5
Reception & Call Quality 3/5
Design/Form Factor 4/5

Overall 4.4

Official Smartphone Rankings™, vote now then leave a review.

Did you pick up the Samsung Galaxy Note II? Tell us about it here.

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PhoneDog PhoneFacts, Episode 5: Uber Nerd Jun 19th 2013, 07:45
Aaron Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3Jonesing for more PhoneDog PhoneFacts after last week’s information-filled episode? Well you’re in luck, friend, because episode five of PhoneDog PhoneFacts is here.

Titled “Uber Nerd,” the latest installment in the video series from PhoneDog and Tiny Galaxy covers phone/tablet hybrids. Whether you call them phablets or just really big phones, there’s no denying that the product category is growing quickly. In this week’s episode of PhoneDog PhoneFacts, Aaron highlights some of the positive aspects of these large devices and gives suggestions on new ways to use them. If you’re currently rocking a big phone or are in the market for one, this is episode of PhoneDog PhoneFacts is for you!

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PhoneDog 101: How to use Google+ Jun 19th 2013, 06:35
Our world is a fascinating place, and one could argue that it has never been more diverse, opinionated, and ever changing than it is right now. Today we stand connected to our friends and families in more ways than ever before, and Google has given us the perfect tool to help build and maintain those connections with Google+.

Google+ is a cross platform social networking tool that lets us organize how we discover and share information that’s important to us. The mobile industry is always looking for ways to bring people closer together and Google+ lets us connect in ways we have never seen before, utilizing tools like Hangouts, Communities, Circles, and an extensive photo backup and sharing system. So let’s take a closer look at the social network in this PhoneDog 101: How to use Google+.

Stay connected

The point of any social network is to connect with the people, artists, and interests that are important to you. Google+ takes that to a whole new level by providing you with tools like communities and circles. My personal favorite feature of Google+ is the Communities feature. With Google+ Communities you can search for a larger group of people who share a common interests like cooking, technology, or sports for example. If you’re like me, a Boston Bruins fan who lives in a Chicago Blackhawks favored area during the Stanley Cup, the Bruins community on Google+ is a great place to come together with other fans.

However, staying connected with the people in your life gets even easier with circles. The idea behind Circles is that when you don’t necessarily want to share with your boss at work what you would with your friends, you don’t have to. Circles let you choose which people to share with, without the mess of blocking or hiding people. This creates a much more realistic relationship- based network, much like how we interact with people offline day to day. Users create a new Circle or add people to existing Circles, when you connect with them on Google+. This keeps your friends, for example, separate from you’re co-workers.

Never lose a photo again

With Google+ you can set up your profile so that anytime you take a picture with your smartphone, you automatically find the photo backed up on your personal Google profile. You can choose to keep the photos private for your viewing only, or to share them with your Circles and Communities. Not only does the photo backup feature keep a personal stockpile of your life’s precious moments, but it also allows you to enhance the photos with an extensive amount of filters and tools.

To upload and share a photo, first turn on auto upload from Google+ settings (remember its private so nobody else can see your photos). Take your picture and then go into your Google+ application. The application will prompt you to select the photo right away to share, place a location, or edit. Go ahead and tap the picture to select it, and hit the share button. From here, it will let you choose which Circles or Communities to share the photo with. You can also write a description and tag a location to go along with the photo. Again tap share, and you will have uploaded the photo for your specific Circles.

Hangouts

Talking about Google+ wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the awesome Hangouts feature. This cross platform application lets you continue the conversation no matter where you are. This feature is especially handy when it comes to groups of people that use different operating systems for their mobile devices. For example, the group texting feature works really well from iPhone to iPhone, but once someone joins in on an Android device, the group gets broken up.

With the separate Hangouts application, you can keep the gang together. You can group chat or even video conference on the go. This feature keeps you in the same Google ecosystem no matter what you’re using. For iOS and Android users, be sure to download the separate application from the App store or Google Play Store. Once the application is downloaded, simply log in using your Gmail log in information. You will notice all of your Google contacts are ready for you to interact with already. From there, go ahead and start chatting!

All in all, Google+ provides its users with an immersive and personal experience that is in some ways unmatched by any other social network today. Although the application is only for iOS and Android devices, users can still receive and send updates and photos through any mobile browser and SMS. With the great photo backup tool, Hangouts application, and an easy to use interface that lets you collaborate and discover with others; Google+ is a great application for any mobile user.

Now to turn it over to you, the reader: Do you already use Google+ or do you prefer other applications for social networking? Do you have a favorite Community on Google+ or do you use the service for photo backup? Let us know in the comments!

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NEC Terrain hitting AT&T on June 21 for $99.99, packs physical keyboard and rugged body Jun 19th 2013, 06:20
AT&T NEC Terrain officialJune 21 might have to be declared “Physical QWERTY Smartphone Day” for AT&T customers, as the big blue carrier has announced that a new keyboard-packin’ Android phone will be launching alongside the BlackBerry Q10 on that date. AT&T just revealed that the NEC Terrain will be hitting its AT&T Business Solutions channels and its website on June 21, with pricing set at $99.99 with a two-year commitment.

As you can see in the image above, the NEC Terrain sports a portrait QWERTY keyboard, a feature that we don’t often see on Android phones. Along with that ‘board, the Android 4.0-powered Terrain packs a 3.1-inch display, 8-megapixel rear and 0.3-megapixel cameras, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 8GB of built-in storage that can be supplemented with a microSD card. The rugged outer shell of the Terrain offers resistance to both dust and water and also meets military specifications for shock distribution. Rounding out the Terrain’s feature list is 4G LTE connectivity and support for AT&T’s Enhanced Push-to-Talk service, including a dedicated PTT key.

With its ruggedized body, PTT support and physical keyboard, the NEC Terrain is definitely a device that’s targeted at enterprise customers. However, the Terrain is a noteworthy product for the rest of us because it’s a new Android smartphone with a hardware keyboard bolted on (and a portrait one, at that), which is something that we haven’t seen in a while. Its spec list may not set your pants on fire, but if you’re an AT&T customer that absolutely needs to feel a physical QWERTY under your thumbs, the NEC Terrain may be an option to consider.

Via AT&T (Image credit)

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