Getting the Most Out of Your Samsung Galaxy S III – Part Two

Last update: January 26, 2012

30 Great Tips & Tricks for the Samsung Galaxy S III

In part one of this article, we talked about what you need to get started with your new phone. This week were going to go much deeper and discuss more than twenty more tips that every Samsung Galaxy S III user should know.

    1. Learn how to access Google Now – There is some confusion how to access Google Now on a Samsung Galaxy S III. You don’t swipe up like you do on other Android smartphones. To access Google Now, long press the Home button and touch ‘Google.’ Now you’ll need to set things up by clicking ‘Next’ until you see ‘Yes, I’m in.’ Then choose which email account you want to use. Now you should start receiving cards with useful information on them. Say ‘Google’ to ask you phone questions without touching the screen.

    2. Try the new live camera filters – Android 4.1 has some cool new Instagram-style live filters that work on photos or video. To enable these, go to the Camera app and touch the magic wand icon. You’ll be able to choose from presets including warm vintage, cold vintage, black and white, sepia, solarize and many more.

    3. Edit video on-the-fly without editing software – Android 4.1 also lets you make your own movie by simply pressing the pause button in the Camera app and then starting to record again. When you’re finished press the stop button and you can watch your edited shots in sequence. This is simple, but really useful addition.

    4. See how widgets automatically resize – As you drop widgets onto the Android 4.1 home screens, everything else automatically moves to make room. When a widget is too big it, it resizes itself.

    5. Quickly speed up bogged down apps – I love the Zite app, but after you use it for a while it gets slower and slower until you can hardly scroll the page. This problem is easy to fix however. First, long press the Home button and touch ‘Remove all.’ Then, touch ‘Task manager’ and ‘Clear memory.’ Finally, hit the Back button and go back to the problem app. You’ll find the problem is gone.

    6. Capturing a screen – To capture anything on the screen press the home button and the power button together for 2 seconds OR use your palm to swipe from right to left. If you’ve done it correctly, you should hear a copy machine sound and see the screen flash white. Video instructions.

    7. Turn off 4G to increase your battery life – If you’re in an area without 4G LTE reception there is no reason to have your phone continually scanning for a 4G signal. This can take a toll of your battery life. Unfortunately carriers like Verizon do not let you disable 4G from the Settings pages. Fortunately there is a solution to this problem although it’s not as easy as it should be.

    1. Download the ‘Phone info‘ app from Google Play.
    2. Click on ‘Device info’
    3. Scroll down till you see ‘LTE/CDMA/EvDo’
    4. Touch ‘LTE/CDMA/EvDo’ and choose ‘GSM/CDMA auto (PRL)’

    You should be now be connected to Verizon's 3G network. Because the phone is no longer constantly searching for a 4G signal, this will conserve battery life.

    Here are some more great tips to preserve battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S III.


    8. Mute your phone by turning it over – Go to Motion and ‘Turn over to mute/pause’ to on. Now turning your phone over so it’s screen is down automatically mutes incoming call ringtones and alerts sounds. This feature also works with music and videos when you use the stock Samsung players.

    9. Make your graphics smoother – Normally your CPU handles rendering of 2D graphics. By going to Settings > Developer options and making sure ‘Force GPU rendering’ is checked, you can free up CPU clock cycles so your graphics are rendered faster and smoother. In the unlikely event that you encounter an app which doesn’t support this, you’ll want to disable this setting before running that app.

    10. Pick your favorite contacts – To do this launch the Phone app and touch ‘Contacts,’ then mark your best friends and family members with a star to identify them as Favorites. You’ll find the star in the upper right-hand corner of the screen after you select a contact. Favorites are displayed first in the Phone app so you can quickly call or message them.

    11. Toggle screen rotation – By now you’ve probably figured out you can enable and disable screen rotation from the Notification bar which is displayed when you swipe down from the top of the screen. I recommend that you disable this when you’re not viewing photos or video.

    12. Enable Driving mode – Another useful Notifications bar option is Driving mode. When this is enabled, all incoming caller ID and text messages will be read to you.

    Driving mode and Sync disable are useful settings


    13. Disable sync when you’re not working – You can save battery life by disabling account synchronization when you don’t need it. This is done by scrolling to the right and touching ‘Sync’ in the Notification bar.

    14. Display a world clock for notifications – Touch the time in the Notification area to display a world clock. Touch ‘Add city’ to display different zones around the world.

    15. Access your phone, mail, texts or camera from the lock screen – You can simply quickly swipe up from any of the four icons on the Lock screen to immediately launch the associated app. This is a real time saver.

    Notice Instagram has been added to the Lock screen


    16. Access any app from the Lock screen – You can replace any of the four icons on the lock screen. To do this, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Security’ > ‘Lock screen options’ and make sure Shortcuts is on. Then touch the word ‘Shortcuts’ and four icons will appear. Touch the icon you wish to replace and choose a new app. The access the new app when your phone is locked, quickly swipe up to launch it.

    17. Quickly switch between all running apps – Press and hold the Home button to see all of the running apps. Touch the screenshot for any app to switch to it.

    It’s easy to free up lots of memory


    18. Free up memory to improve performance – To free up memory and make your phone run faster, press and hold the Home button and touch ‘Task manager.’ Then touch ‘RAM’ near the top of the screen and ‘Clear memory.’

    19. Close all running apps – To close all apps that are running in the background, press and hold the Home button and touch ‘Remove all.’

    20. Zoom in or out using hardware buttons– You can use the volume and volume down buttons on the left to zoom in or out which in the Camera app.

    21. Connect to your corporate mail – To access your work email click on the ‘Email’ app on the home screen shown to the right. Then click on the ‘Corporate’ icon and enter your name and password. If it doesn’t connect with you exchange server the first time, check your user name and try again. To save battery life, change from ‘Push’ to a time interval like 30 minutes or Manual for Off-Peak.

    22. Access all of your email from a single app– To add all of your different e-mail accounts (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo mail, Outlook mail, etc.) touch the icon for the red Email app and go to Settings. Then touch the ‘+’ sign and choose which account to setup.

    You can use any song as your ringtone


    23. Getting the pan image trick to work – The trick to getting the pan to browse feature to work (after you’ve enabled it under Motion settings) is to hold one of your fingers on the screen when you are zoomed in on an image. Then when you move the phone in wide sweeping motions from left to right and back you should see different parts of the photo.

    24. Use your favorite song as a ringtone – You can use any song as a ringtone for all calls, calls from an individual person, or as an alarm. Launch the stock ‘Music Player’ app and touch and hold on the song you wish to use. Then touch ‘Set as’ and choose from the available options.

    25. Upgrade your browser – The stock Browser is fine, but you should download and install Chrome and use it instead. It’s much faster and links with your computer and tablet.

    26. Buy a wireless charging doc – Most people don’t know it, but the Galaxy S III supports wireless charging. To take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to purchase a special doc from Samsung. These docs should go on sale any day now.

    27. Prevent your phone from switching to Wi-Fi – You may want to consider turning off Wi-Fi when you’re in an area with great 4G data speeds, because it will make your phone faster. The reason for this is because your phone will always use Wi-Fi when it’s available — even if it’s much slower than 4G. Since the Galaxy S III automatically turns Wi-Fi back on when you do certain things, you’ll have to go to Settings/Wi-Fi and uncheck the first option which says “Notify Me – When launching high data usage applications…” Important: You should only do this is you have a 4GB data plan, or are sure you’re under your monthly allowance.

    28. Download some great new apps – If this is your first Android phone, you should download some of the best Android apps. Here is a good list of the fifty best.

    29. Fix your auto-brightness – Your phone has an auto-brightness setting, but it doesn’t work that well. You should download Lux Auto Brightness to fix this problem. Lux automatically adjusts the brightness of your display based on your environment. When you go into a dark room and unlock your screen, Lux will automatically lower the brightness of your display to make reading more enjoyable.

    To setup Lux you need to go through their setup wizard. I suggest you leave the factory default settings as is. After you do that, you’ll need to go back and launch the app again and touch ‘Press to enable Lux.’ Lux will adjust every time you unlock your screen. If you sometimes use your tablet in a totally dark room, I suggest you go to the settings page and set ‘Night Mode’ alpha to 10.

    30. Share your screen with other devices – It’s possible to share the screen on your Samsung Galaxy S III with Samsung phones, tablets or TVs. Learn how to do this here.

    Connect your phone to any Apple speaker dock

    Connect your phone to any Apple speaker dock

    31. Connect your phone to a speaker dock – Now you can buy a cable which connects your Samsung Galaxy S III to any Apple-compatible speaker dock.

    In addition to the above tips, here are five little-known features for Your Samsung Galaxy S III that you’ll be able to appreciate after you upgrade to Android 4.1. If you’re wondering why I left out S Beam, I’ve devoted a whole post to that feature alone. Check it out.

More Android 4.1 tips from Samsung.
– Rick

Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

 

Getting the Most Out of Your Samsung Galaxy S III – Part One

Last update: December 15, 2012

This article has had over 10,000 views. Thanks for reading it.

Things To Do First

You’ll need to increase the brightness to make the S III’s screen look its best


This is the first in a three part series which will help you to get the most out of your new Samsung Galaxy S III. Let’s start with some simple things to make an already good phone — even better:

  1. Increase the screen’s brightness – Some reviewers have complained that the Galaxy S III is not as bright as other top smartphones. This is easy to fix. Go to Settings > Display > Brightness and turn ‘Automatic brightness’ off. Then, move the brightness slider to the right and press OK. The screen should now be much easier to read. I run my brightness at about 70% and battery life is still fine.
  2. Change the screen timeout – Another easy to fix annoyance is the time before the screen goes to sleep. Go to Settings > Display and change the ‘Screen timeout’ to 2 minutes. This will keep your screen awake much longer, without having much of an affect on battery life.
  3. Here is an example of a customized home screen

  4. Clean up your home screens – Every one uses their phone differently, that’s why important that you customize your home screens to meet your needs. Here are some suggestions for new Samsung users:

    a. Make shortcuts on your home screens for all of your favorite apps. To do this touch ‘Apps’ and then touch and hold an app and then drag it until it appears on the desired home screen.

    b. Create folders for different categories of apps (e.g. Games, Utilities, etc.) and move all of the related apps into those folders. If you’re not sure how to create folders, there are details below in the section called ‘Cleaning Up Your Homescreens.’

    c. Uninstall any unnecessary apps and widgets. To do this, simply touch and drag them into the trash can in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

    d. Remove any extra home screen panels after you’ve created shortcut for all of your most-used apps. The SIII comes with seven home screen panels, but you can speed up the time it takes to get to your apps if you delete all blank home screen panels. To do this pinch the home screen with two of your fingers. Then drag any blank panels into the trash can. You can add them back later if you want to.

  5. Clean up your app locker
    a. Start by hiding all of the carrier-installed apps you don’t plan to use. To do this touch Apps and press the Settings button. Then touch ‘Hide applications.’ Touch the black box next to any app you want to hide. When you’re finished, press ‘Done’ in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
    b. Next, uninstall all of the apps you don’t plan to use. Details below.
  6. Improve your on-screen typing – If you have any problems typing on the Samsung keyboard you may need to do one of these three things:

    a. Go to ‘Language and input’ and enter words into your ‘Personal dictionary.’
    b. Customize your predictive text settings (details at the bottom on this post)
    c. If you’re still not satisfied after the above two steps, download SwiftKey 3 keyboard and use it instead of the stock Samsung keyboard.

  7. Download the drivers for your phone – If your phone doesn’t mount after you plug it into the USB port on your computer, you may need to download drivers. You can find the USB drivers for the Verizon version of the Galaxy S III here. Check the Samsung website to find the drivers for other carrier’s phones.
  8. Expand your memory – If you don’t have an extra 16 or 32GB microSD card laying around, you should purchase one, and copy all of your media to it. You can double the storage in your Galaxy S III for less than $10. This will free up valuable space on your internal memory.
  9. Replace some of your Samsung apps with stock ones – Samsung replaces many of the stock Android apps. In some cases, the replacements are better than the originals. In other cases, they are not. Here are 20 stock apps which you may want to consider.
  10. Read the manual – There is some valuable information in the Samsung Galaxy S III User’s Guide. You can view it here.
  11. Learn how to use the special features which are exclusive to this phone – The “Guided Tours” app has videos which will teach you how to use special features like one touch sharing, pop up play and more. Most of these appear in the “Additional videos” section. Even more videos can be found by searching for “Galaxy SIII” on YouTube. These tips and tricks videos are also worth watching.

Where to Find More Great Tips?

You can find 30 more great tips and tricks for the Samsung Galaxy S III here. If case you’re wondering why I left out S Beam, I’ve devoted a whole post to that feature.

Cleaning Up Your Home Screens

How to create folders

You can no longer drag and drop and app on another to create a folder.

  1. To create a folder, click on the Menu button in the lower-left hand corner.
  2. Then touch ‘Create Folder’
  3. You should see a white folder appear on your homescreen.

Note: Make sure you only try to do this on a homescreen that has room for the folder to appear. Otherwise it won’t work.

How to uninstall unused apps like ‘Media Hub’

  1. Touch the Apps icon.
  2. Press the Menu button in the lower-left hand corner and touch ‘Uninstall’.
  3. Click on the red minus sign to delete an app.
  4. Confirm and press the Back button when you’re done uninstalling apps.

Note: You can only delete certain apps. If there is no minus sign, you cannot delete them.

This list view allows you to quickly find apps alphabetically


How to fill in the spaces after hiding apps

After you hide a lot of apps you’re going to see spaces where the old apps used to be. The easiest way to fix this is to follow these instructions:

  1. Touch the Settings button in the lower-left hand corner and touch ‘View Type’.
  2. Touch ‘Alphabetical grid’ or ‘Alphabetical list’ shown to the right.

How to customize predictive text
If you’re having problems with the keyboard inserting wrong words, you may want to disable or customize predictive text. To do this, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to Settings > Language and input > and click on the gears to the right of Samsung keyboard.
  2. Then touch the words ‘Predictive text’. next, scroll down and touch ‘My word list’ and press “+” to add non-standard words that you type often.
  3. Next, touch the trash can icon and delete any words from the list that appear to be gibberish.
  4. I found that changing the ‘Word completion point’ from 2 to 3 letters seemed to help as well.
  5. If you find ‘Word completion’ to be distracting, turn it off. If you leave it on, don’t fight it. Keep on typing even though it has picked a wrong word. Most of the time it will correct itself later.

Tips for those upgrading from a Samsung Galaxy Nexus

If you’re moving from an Android 4.0 phone like the Galaxy Nexus, there are some things you need to know to get the most out of your incredible new phone. Although the Galaxy SIII runs Android 4.0, there are some differences between Touchwiz and the stock Android 4.0 GUI. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list. I’m focusing on the features that I find to be the most useful.

Dedicated Buttons are Back

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that there are now three buttons below the massive 4.8” screen on the Galaxy S III.

  1. The left button is a menu button which lights up when you touch anywhere below the bottom of the screen. Instead of clicking on the three dots like you can see on the galaxy Nexus screenshot below, you’ll click on the S III’s dedicated menu button.
  2. The center button is a real physical home key which does three different things: Pressing it normally takes you to your Home screen. Pressing and holding it, displays a list of recent apps. Quickly pressing it twice launches Samsung’s S Voice, which is similar to Apple’s SIRI.
  3. The right button is the back button. This works the same as it did on stock Android 4.0 phones.

Where to Find MyApps

Instead of viewing your apps by touching the menu button in the upper right hand corner of the Google Play app, you’ll now touch the menu in the lower left-hand corner.

There are other differences between the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Checkout my next article to learn how to turn off 4G or capture your screen. You’ll find answers to those questions, along with twenty five more tips. If case you’re wondering why I left out S Beam, I’ve devoted an entire article to that alone. You won’t want to miss that one.

– Rick

Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.


Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1
 

Optimizing Your Network for Multimedia Streaming

Last updated: January 5, 2014

This article has had almost 20,000 views. Thanks for reading it.

How to Optimize Your Home Network for Multimedia Streaming

Wireless devices can be found many places in a typical home


Wireless networks can be found in almost every home and office. Setting up a Wi-Fi network for normal use is easy. But when you try to stream high-quality video, you’re likely to experience occasional stuttering or rebuffering. According to a study, almost one in five U.S. Internet users are unable to stream 720p HD video reliably. In some states, 40% of consumers cannot do this. When problems like this occur, you can do several things to improve the situation:

  1. Use an uncrowded channel – Make sure you’re not sharing the same Wi-Fi channel with others close to you. Many 2.4GHz wireless access-points default to the same channel when they are powered up. This can make congestion worse and lower your throughput. Download software like Farproc’s free Wifi Analyzer to get a visual picture of your network. It even tells you which are the best channels to use. Most routers will allow you to set the channel using your web browser.
  2. Utilities like this one tell you which wireless channels to use.

  3. Avoid overlapping channels – Use the channels 1, 6, or 11 when possible, because they are non-overlapping.
  4. Upgrade for more speed – If you have an 802.11b or 802.11g wireless router, consider upgrading to an 802.11n or 802.11ac router. Both are capable of faster data speeds and also support the less crowded 5GHz band. Some 802.11ac routers are capable of speeds over 1Gbps.
  5. The 2.4GHz band is much more crowded than the 5GHz band

  6. Use the 5GHz band if your devices support it – The 5GHz band is faster and not as susceptible to interference from cordless telephones, microwave ovens, baby monitors, Bluetooth devices and wireless keyboards as the 2.4GHz band. It’s also much less crowded and should be used as long as your devices support it, and you are not too far away from your wireless access point.
  7. A low-cost Wi-Fi Booster

    A low-cost Wi-Fi Booster

  8. Extend your range – If your problem is signal strength-related, consider using a Wi-Fi booster/repeater or wireless access point with better antennas like this one. By adding the $40 Wi-Fi booster shown on the right, I was able to increase my download speeds by almost 400%. An even better option for those who have a wired Ethernet network is to purchase a second router that supports 802.11ac. Make sure to set it up as an access point where you connect the first router to the port 1 and NOT the WAP port. Also make sure to disable the DHCP server. More details here.
  9. Consider wireless alternatives – When you’re having problems steaming HD video, you may want to consider wireless alternatives like HomePlug Powerline AV adapters. If you go this route, make sure your adapter is HomePlug AV-compatible so you can mix and match devices from other companies. According a recent article in Maximum PC, last-generation Homeplug AV 200 adapters were supposed to be capable of speeds of up to 200Mb/s. Even though they only got real world speeds were 60-70Mb/s, that’s enough for a single HD stream. Newer devices support the IEEE 1903 standard which is capable of theoretical speeds up to 500Mbps and real world speeds up to 100Mbps. These speeds are even faster than you can get over standard Ethernet wiring, so you should be able to stream multiple HD movies at once in your home using multiple adapters. Consider the TP-Link AV-500 TL-PA511KIT or eNetgear Nano 500 XAVB5101 adapters. Those are two of the best affordable adapters available today. Both should be capable of real world read speeds of over 62Mbps and real world write speeds over 54Mbps.

    Another good wireless alternative are MoCA adapters, which transmit multimedia data over coax cable. Both of these are capable of higher data rates and more reliable than most wireless routers.

  10. Test your download speed – If you stream media over the Internet, you should know what your download speed is. Even more important than the peak speed is the average speed. Watch whether the data rate is consistent, or fluctuates a lot. There are several good sites and apps which do this. More info.

An Ethernet Over Coax MoCA Network Adapter

Dual-Band Wi-Fi FAQ

Do all 802.11g/n products support dual-band?
No. 802.11ac was designed specifically for the 5GHz band, however, so it seems likely all ‘ac’ products will support 5GHz.

Who makes dual-band routers?
Most wireless routers sold over the past few years support dual-band. Examples include: Apple’s Airport Express, all ASUS routers (RT-AC66U, RT-N65U, RT-N66U and EA-N66) the Linksys N600, N750, N900 and AC1750 as well as routers from Netgear.

Here are just a few of the smartphones with 5GHz Wi-Fi support

Here are just a few of the smartphones with 5GHz Wi-Fi support

Do you have a list of mobile devices that support 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Here are a few of the devices which support dual-band Wi-Fi. Note: This list is not current. These days most mobile devices support 5GHz.

  • Amazon Kindle Fire HD
  • Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
  • Apple AirPort Extreme (2009 and later)
  • Apple computers with Wireless-N support
  • Apple iPad
  • Apple iPad 2
  • Apple iPad 3
  • Apple iPad 4
  • Apple iPhone 5 (and later)
  • Apple TV (2nd and 3rd gen.)
  • ASUS Nexus 7
  • BlackBerry PlayBook
  • Google Nexus 10
  • HTC Droid DNA
  • HTC Rezound
  • HTC Windows Phone 8x
  • LG Nexus 4
  • LG Nexus 5
  • Linksys EA-3500 wireless router
  • Linksys E-4200 wireless router
  • Linksys EA-4500 wireless router
  • Microsoft Surface RT
  • PCs with Wireless-N support (most, not all)
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (and later models)
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket
  • Samsung Galaxy S III (and later models)
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
  • Samsung Galaxy S 4
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (possibly other sizes as well, but NOT the Galaxy Tab 2)
  • Samsung Nexus 10
  • Slingbox 500

Where can I go to find out if my devices supports Dual-band Wi-Fi?
Search for your device here. It’s dual-band if there is a “1” under 5.0 GHz transmit and receive.

Is 5GHz Wi-Fi faster than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi?
It you refer to the chart below, you’ll see some routers are capable of higher data rates when using the 5GHz band. More info.

Chart courtesy of Maximum PC

Is there a downside when using 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Yes. Not all devices support 5GHz Wi-Fi. Also, the higher frequency signals of 5GHz networks do not penetrate walls as well as 2.4GHz signals. This limits their reach inside some homes.

How can you force your devices to use 5GHz Wi-Fi?
‘Forget’ the 2.4GHz network and connect to the 5GHz one.

What’s better than 802.11n?
802.11ac is a new wireless-networking standard which is capable of speeds that are almost 3x faster than 802.11n. You can learn here about it here. In addition to higher throughput, 802.11ac has wider coverage and improved power efficiency. Although real-world speeds won’t always exceed 1Gbps, 802.11ac should be capable of speeds of 500Mbps at distances of 50 meters. Apple’s Macs now include support for 802.11ac. All premium routers now include 802.11ac support as well. Asus shipped a laptop with support for 802.11ac over a year ago.

Is anything else being done to improve streaming of multimedia around the house?
Yes, companies like Qualcomm are working on technology called StreamBoost. When combined with 802.11ac, this is supposed to improve performance by managing network traffic. StreamBoost-compatible products let users to see all the devices connected to their network and monitor the real-time bandwidth usage of every device.

What comes after 802.11ac?
According to this blog, “802.11ad improves upon the wireless capabilities introduced in 802.11n. Ideally, 802.11ad will allow devices to communicate over four, 2.16GHz-wide channels, delivering data rates of up to 7 Gigabits per second, even for mobile devices with limited power, a significant improvement over both 11n and 11ac.” More info about 802.11ad.

There are also people who say G.hn is the next big thing in home networking. It uses existing home wiring including coaxial cables, phone lines and power lines. You can learn here about it here.

More about what lies next in networking.

Another good article related to this topic.

If you follow the above guidelines, you should be able to stream high-definition videos without problems. Let me know if I missed any good Wi-Fi tips.

– Rick

Copyright 2013-2014 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged. Network photo courtesy of Apple.


Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

Jumping Ship – Moving from iOS to Android

I Was an iPhone Addict

I’ve been a hardcore iPhone user for the past several years. Like most iPhone users, I had a hard time imagining ever switching to another phone. I’d seen some early Android phones and their user interface didn’t look nearly as polished as iOS. I also thought the transition would be too hard and I might regret making the switch. I knew my iPhone so well I could practically operate it blindfolded.

Why Would Anyone Defect?

I had planned to buy an iPhone 5 the first day it was available. However, once the iPhone 4S was announced, and it became clear an iPhone 5 was not going to be released in 2011, I started having second thoughts. My old iPhone had slowed down to the point it was sometimes frustrating to use. I’m not sure if this was a result of iOS, or the fact I was on the AT&T network, which is horrible where I live. While I was researching this problem, I learned about the differences between 4G LTE and the 4G imposters like HSPA+. 4G LTE phones are 5 to 12 times faster than other phones. Two things were clear to me:

  1. My next phone must support LTE
  2. My next phone must run on the Verizon network

More about the confusion around 4G data speeds can be found here.

Verizon's LTE speed comparison

These two requirements made my decision easier. The iPhone 4S had disappointing specs (compared to the newest Android phones) and it did not support LTE. There was no way I was going to sign another two-year contract on a non-LTE phone.

So, I started looking into Android phones. I’d heard about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and read several reviews which said it was the best Android phone ever. Some of the reviews said Android 4.0 was more intuitive than earlier versions, and even had the nerve to compare it to iOS. So I took a big leap of faith and bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus the first day they became available. I wasn’t too worried, because I had two weeks to return the phone if I didn’t like it.

More about the differences between iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus can be found here.

I immediately started using my new Galaxy Nexus and was surprised the transition wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Once I installed a few of my favorite apps, I was on my way. I did encounter a few hurdles along the way, so I made a list of suggestions for a trouble free transition from iOS to Android.

Ten Steps to a Trouble-free Transition

Once you get through these steps, you’ll be on your way to being a happy Android user.

  1. First things first – Start by creating a Google account (if you don’t already have one) and enter your credit card so you can purchase apps. This account will allow you to backup everything on your phone to the cloud, and sync with other Google apps. Next, enter the key for your Wi-Fi network.
  2. Setup your voice mail – Now learn how to makes call and setup your voice mail.  On my phone, I have to dial *86 to check my voice mail, your phone may have a dedicated button for this.
  3. Install your favorite apps – Now go to the Android Market and install a few of your most-used apps. Don’t bother to make a list of your old apps. If you really need them, you’ll remember their names.
  4. How do I switch apps without that big button? – One of the first hurdles I encountered was figuring out how the Home button works on Android phones. Both phones have Home buttons, but they work a little differently.

    iOS Home button

    • Pressing that big Home button on the iPhone always takes you back to the main Home screen. Pressing the Home button on an Android 4.0 phone takes you back to the last Home screen you were on.

      Android's Home button

    • Pressing the Home button on the home screen of an iPhone takes you to the Search screen. This doesn’t happen on Android phones because the search box is displayed on every home screen.

      Android's Recent Apps button

    • Double-pressing the Home button on an iPhone 4S shows your most recently opened apps.  You can do the same thing on an Android 4.0 phone by pressing the Recent Apps button. The only difference is that you scroll up and down, instead of left to right.

      Android's Back button

    • Two other important navigation differences exist between the iPhone and Android phones are the Menu and Back buttons. The Back button on an Android phone works like the back button on your browser. Once you get used to doing this, I think you’ll find it very useful.

      Android's Menu button

    • The same is true with the Menu button. On Android phones before 4.0, there is a dedicated Menu button which works much like the right mouse button on a Windows PC. This can also be a real time saver once you get used to it. On an iPhone you have to go to the Setting app to access options which are available in the Menu key on Android phones. Note:On Android 4.0 phones the Menu button is only displayed once you launch an app.

      Android's App Drawer

    • Another difference is the fact that all downloaded iOS apps must appear on one of the iPhone’s home screens. On Android, this is not the case. All apps are displayed when you touch the App Drawer. It’s up to you which app you want to have displayed on your five home screens.
  5. Syncing your calendar and contacts – Google automatically syncs all of your Google contacts and calendars. If you want to sync your work contacts and calender, it’s easy. Click on the E-mail app and then select Settings using the menu key. Then click Add Account and enter your work e-mail and password. In a few minutes, all of your work contacts and calendar will be synced with your Android phone. When you add a new contact or appointment to your calendar, it will instantly appear on your Android phone without any type of manual sync needed.
  6. Learn how Notifications work – Notifications work a little different on Android and iOS 5.0 devices. On an Android phone, you’ll see different icons at the top of the screen every time you receive a new e-mail or other activities. Like iOS, you swipe down from the top of the screen to view your notifications.  Once you review them, just click the “X” to clear them.
  7. Install the “must-have” Android apps – Every platform has its own “must-have” apps. CNET recently published a list of some of the best Android apps. You may want to download some of these after you get a new Android phone.
  8. Optimize your battery life – If you get a lot of e-mail, you need to make some changes to extend your battery life.  Load the E-mail app, go to Settings and set the Inbox check frequency to 1 hour or never. You can still manually sync at any time. Other good battery-saving suggestions can be found here.
  9. Make it your own– Learn how to customize your Home screens. Move your app shortcuts around, create folders for similar apps and deleting apps you don’t use daily. Learn how to use widgets. Widgets are a big differentiator between Android and iOS.
  10. Relax – Don’t expect to master a new mobile operating system over night. It could take days — even  weeks until you are fully comfortable with your new phone. Be patient while you adjust to some new ways of doing things. The effort you put in will be worth it in the end.

Would I Ever Go Back to Apple?

Sure. I didn’t buy an iPhone because all of my friends had one. In fact, when I bought my first iPhone, it wasn’t that popular. I bought it because it was the best mobile device available at the time. That’s the same reason I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy. I want the fastest and best phone on the planet. I don’t care who makes it.

Which Mobile OS Do I Prefer?

In another blog post, I compare Android 4.1 with iOS 6, and let you know which things I like best about each. You won’t want to miss those posts.

– Rick

Since this article was first written, the iPhone 5 has come out and I’ve switched to a Samsung Galaxy S III. Gizmodo ran a really good article which also talks about making the switch from Android to iOS. I must not be the only person switching, because there are now four times more Android phones than Apple phones. Even with the iPhone 5, it’s going to be impossible for Apple to ever catch up.

Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

The Confusion Around Mobile Data Speeds

AT&T's marketing chart correctly places HSPA+ in-between 3G HSPA and LTE when it comes to data speeds.

The History of Faux G

Data speeds can have a huge impact on the perceived speed of your mobile device, but there is much confusion around 4G. For the past year all of the carriers have been running commercials about their 4G networks. Truth be told, until recently, Sprint and Verizon were the only U.S. carriers with true 4G networks and mobile devices to support it.

  • T-Mobile was first to call their HSPA+ network 4G and AT&T gave T-Moble grief over it. HSPA stands for “High Speed Packet Access.” Since then AT&T jumped on the same HSPA+ 4G bandwagon. HSPA+ is capable of speeds that are somewhere in-between 3G and 4G LTE. This is why some call it “Faux G.”
  • Sprint uses a different technology called WiMAX and was the first to deploy a true 4G network. Their network is capable of speeds that meet or exceed Verizon’s 4G data network. [Update: Sprint just announced they will be coming out with LTE phones in the 2nd half of 2012.]
  • Verizon launched their 4G LTE network back in December of 2010.
  • AT&T launched LTE in five cities in September 2011 (9 months after Verizon), but didn’t have a single 4G phone until November 2011.

If you’re fortunate to be in one of the 200+ cities with LTE coverage, you’re in for a real treat. LTE is much faster than 3G or HSPA+. How much faster? Verizon claims LTE speeds which are at least twice as fast as AT&T’s 4G HSPA+ and up to 12 times faster than their own 3G speeds. Most LTE users experience real world download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps and real world upload speeds of 2 to 5 Mbps. These speeds are impressive, but they are conservative. I’ve experienced real world LTE download speeds as high as 45Mbps and upload speeds as high as 28Mbps. Theoretical peak LTE speeds are even higher than these. More info.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is on of the few phones with LTE and Dual-Band Wi-Fi support.

The list of smartphones which support LTE today include the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, BlackBerry Torch 9810, Droid Bionic, Droid Charge, Droid RAZR, HTC Rezound, HTC Thunderbolt, HTC Vivid, LG Revolution, Pantech Breakout, Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and Samsung Stratosphere. More phones are being added to this list every month. The list of tablets which support LTE today include the Motorola Xoom, Motorola Droid XYBOARD(8.2″ and 10.1″), Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Why isn’t the iPhone 4S listed here? Unfortunately, LTE support isn’t yet available on the iPhone or iPad yet.

Trouble in Paradise?

There are two downsides with LTE that you should be aware of:

  1. LTE phones consume power faster than non-LTE phones. For this reason, in the past some people disable 4G when they weren’t using it. Fortunately most newer phones have more powerful batteries which make this less of an issue.
  2. LTE isn’t available everywhere, and even if you live in a city that has it, you may not always be able to get a 4G signal.

Wi-Fi data speeds are important as well. The best mobile devices support dual-band Wi-Fi. That means they work on both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi networks. 5.0 GHz networks are less crowded and capable of higher speeds. You can learn more about 5 GHz and view a list of devices which support it here. Some new mobile devices also include support for Bluetooth 4.0, which promises better range and lower energy consumption.

After reading this, you should be better prepared to evaluate the carriers confusing marketing messages about mobile data speeds. If data speeds are important to you, it’s essential all of your mobile devices support either LTE or WiMAX.

My next post will be about Rhapsody’s new cloud-based music service. You can read about that here.

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

How to Evaluate Mobile Processors


Since this article was first written, an updated version has been posted here. Check it out. A lot has changed.

The Need for Speed

The HTC Rezound has a 1.5GHz processor making it one of the fastest smartphones

The processor is the engine behind your mobile device and determines its speed. Mobile processor speeds have been increasing quickly over the past few years. Today, most of the best smartphones have processors which are either 1.2GHz or 1.5GHz. The HTC Rezound and Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE both have dual-core 1.5GHz processors. Processor speed isn’t the only thing that matters. The number of cores is important as well. Back in February, we saw the first smartphones ship with dual-core processors. Dual-core processors allow your mobile device to do more things at once without slowing down. They are also faster than single-core processors and this can result in a more responsive user interface. Over the next year, dual-core processor speeds are likely to top out around 1.7GHz. Although processor speeds will continue to increase, there are limits to how fast they can get. Mobile processors are beginning to face the same performance and power challenges desktop CPUs faced a few years ago. Demanding applications such as HD video playback and advanced gaming are stretching their capabilities. In order to further increase performance and stay within the available power limits, mobile devices will migrate to processors with more cores.

Apple iPhone 4S

HTC Rezound

HTC Titan

Motorola Droid RAZR

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

800MHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz single-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

Chart 1: A comparison of the processor speeds of popular smartphones

Four Can Do More

Like PCs, mobile devices will migrate from dual-core to quad-core. Quad-core makes even more sense on platforms like Android which allows multiple apps to run in the background. Having four different cores allows your phone (or tablet) to do more at once without slowing down. Tablets will be the first mobile devices to get quad-core processors.  The NVIDIA Tegra 3 will be the first quad-core processor available on mobile devices. NVIDIA says it has 2 to 5 times the processing power and 3 times the graphic performance of the Tegra 2. This will result in smoother graphics and better gaming performance. The Tegra 3 is also capable of 1440p video playback. That’s higher quality than you can watch on your HDTV. The Asus Transformer Prime will be the first tablet to ship with a Tegra 3 processor, but rumors are also circulating about quad-core tablets from Motorola and others. Smartphones won’t be left out of the party; phones with quad-core chips will be announced at CES in January.

The Asus Transformer Prime will have the first quad-core CPU

Most quad-core processors are more efficient and generate less heat than today’s dual-core chips. That will result in better performance and longer battery life. How much longer? NVIDIA says a Tegra 3 tablet should be able to provide 12 hours of HD video playback.  The first quad-core processor will be 1.3GHz, but speeds will increase to 2.5GHz next year. Those chips will be faster than some of the CPUs that ship with mid-priced home computers today. Of course, NVIDIA isn’t the only company making quad-core processors, Qualcomm, Apple and others will also launch products containing quad-core processors next year.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Apple iPad 2

Asus Transformer Prime

B&N Nook Tablet

HTC Jetstream

Motorola Xoom 2

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.3 GHz   quad-core

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.0 GHz dual-core

Chart 2: A comparison of the processor speeds of popular tablets
 

The Importance of the Graphics Co-processor

Some of the fastest phones have separate graphics co-processors, which can have a big impact on performance. Even though the iPhone 4S has a slower processor, it outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S II in some benchmarks. This occurs mainly because the iPhone 4S has a faster graphics coprocessor. See the chart below for details.

Even though the iPhone 4S has a much slower processor than the Samsung Galaxy II S, it outperforms it in some benchmarks. Chart courtesy of AnandTech

 

Final Thoughts

In summary, the speed of the CPU and GPU in your mobile device has a major impact on its performance. Dual-core processors almost always outperform single-core processors, and quad-core processors outperform dual-core processors. Although dual-core processor speeds are starting to slow down, quad-core speeds will improve substantially next year.  By the end of the year, quad-core processors will be found in most high-end tablets and smartphones due to their improved performance and extended battery life.

In case you’re wondering, my next post will discuss the importance of 4G on data performance speeds. Stay-tuned…

– Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

How to Evaluate Mobile Displays


Since this article was first written, an updated version has been posted here. Check it out. A lot has changed.

In my last blog post I talked about the best mobile devices on the market today. This will be the first in a new series of posts that will help you evaluate each part of a smartphone or tablet. Since the display is the main interface to your mobile device, let’s start with it.

Bigger is Better

Three main parameters are used to specify the size and quality of a mobile display:

  1. Screen size measured diagonally in inches
  2. Screen width and height in pixels
  3. Screen density measured in pixels per inch (PPI)

The Samsung Galaxy Note has a much larger screen than the iPhone 4S

Today’s best smartphones have displays which are 4.3″ or larger. The largest screen available on a smartphone in the U.S. today is 4.7″ and can be found on the HTC Titan. Think that’s big? It is, but mobile displays are going to continue to get larger. The Samsung Galaxy Note, which was recently released in Europe, has a 5.3″ screen.  As screens get 6″ or larger, the line between smartphones and tablets will begin to blur and these devices may no longer fit into your pocket. Is it worth it? If you spent lots of time browsing the Web, playing games or working with business documents the answer could be yes.

Screen Size

Pixels (H x W)

Screen Density

Apple iPhone 4S

3.5”

960×640

326 PPI

HTC EVO 3D

4.3”

960×540

256 PPI

HTC Rezound

4.3”

1280×720

342 PPI

HTC Titan

4.7”

800×480

199 PPI

Motorola Atrix

4.0”

960×540

275 PPI

Motorola Droid 2

3.7”

854×480

264 PPI

Motorola Razr

4.3”

960×540

256 PPI

Samsung Galaxy S II

4.3” or 4.52”

800×480

217 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

4.65”

1280×720

316 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Note

5.3”

1280×800

285 PPI

Chart 1: A comparison of popular smartphone displays

Quality Matters Too!

The HTC Rezound has the highest resolution display available today.

Screen width and height is another popular measurement. Today the best smartphones have 1280×720 pixel displays. The Samsung Galaxy Note has an even larger 1280×800 display. Although the total number of pixels is important, it’s not the best indicator of screen quality. The density of pixels is what really matters.  The higher the pixel density, the more detail a screen can display. Although most people think the iPhone 4S has the highest pixel density, they are wrong. The HTC Rezound has a display with a higher pixel density than the iPhone 4S (342 vs. 326 ppi). Even better screens are on the way. Earlier in the year, Toshiba announced a 4-inch screen with a 367 PPI resolution. Pixel densities are likely to hit at least 386 in 2012.

It’s worth mentioning there is some debate over the ideal pixel density. Steve Jobs once said a device with a pixel density of 300 exceeds the limits of the human retina. However, some photographic experts say that number is too low. They believe the ultimate pixel density is 477 PPI. At that point, it’s said the pixels become invisible to an unaided human eye.

What About Tablets?

Screen resolution is one area where tablets can improve. The best tablets have screen densities below 200 while some smartphones have pixel densities higher than 300. Apple is known for their great displays. How does the iPad 2 compare to Android tablets? Let’s see: The iPad 2 has a 9.7″ screen with 1024×768 pixels. The Motorola Xoom has a 10.1″ screen with 1280×800 pixels. Which is better? The Motorola wins on all three categories: screen size, total number of pixels and screen density (with a pixel density of 160 PPI vs. 132 PPI). If you refer to the chart below, you’ll see there are five other Android tablets with even higher screen densities than the Motorola Xoom. Will we see higher resolution tablet screens next year? Definitely! The Lenovo LePad S2007 will have a 216 PPI display and tablets with 2560×1600 screens will be available some time in 2012. These tablets will have a screen density of at least 300 dpi.

Screen Size

Pixels (W x H)

Screen Density

Amazon Kindle Fire

7.0″

1024×600

169 PPI

Apple iPad 2

9.7″

1024×768

132 PPI

Asus Transformer

10.1″

1280×800

160 PPI

Asus Transformer Prime

10.1″

1280×800

149 PPI

B&N Nook Tablet

7.0″

1024×600

169 PPI

Motorola Droid XYBOARD 8.2

8.2″

1280×800

184 PPI

Motorola Xoom

10.1″

1280×800

160 PPI

OGT Eros Tablet

7.0″

N/A

188 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0

7.0″

1024×600

171 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

10.1″

1280×800

149 PPI

Chart 2: A comparison of popular tablet displays

That’s Not All

Of course pixel density isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to screen quality. The color accuracy, color vibrancy, brightness, contrast ratio, black level and viewing angle are important as well. The durability also matters. Gorilla Glass screens are more damage resistant than regular displays. Gorilla Glass 2 screens are on the way, so watch for those.

Well, that wraps up my review of mobile screen technology. In my next post, I’ll write about the heart of every mobile device: Its processor.

Thanks for stopping by.

– Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.