The Connected Car of the Future

The Connected Car

Everything You Need to Know About 4G

Carriers are responsible for much of the confusion around 4G

There are many myths about 4G. Some are true and others are false. This article attempts to clear up some of the confusion.

Myth 1: The iPhone 4S supports 4G

Reality: That depends on your definition of 4G. Most experts say iPhone is still a 3G phone — even though a 4G icon appears when you’re connected to the AT&T’s HSPA+ network. HSPA+ speeds are faster than 3G, but not near as fast as those found on a good 4G LTE network. One thing is sure: The iPhone 4S does not yet support 4G LTE.

Several studies have shown AT&T to have the fastest data speeds

Myth 2: AT&T has the fastest data speeds

Reality: Studies show that AT&T’s data speeds vary wildly depending on the time of day. Sometimes they’re good, but often they’re mediocre. Download speeds are especially problematic when the network gets more congested in the afternoon.

Speeds like these are not unusual over LTE

Myth 3: LTE is 5 to 10 times faster than 3G

Reality: LTE users sometimes report speeds that are 30 times faster than average 3G speeds. I ran more than fifty Speed Test runs and saw average download speed of 17Mbps, and an average upload speed of 9Mbps. My peak speeds are 45Mbps down and 28Mbps up. Pretty amazing.

Myth 4: 4G costs more than 3G

Reality: Most 4G data plans cost exactly the same as 3G data plans. Most Verizon customers pay $30 a month for 4GB of data. 4G phones don’t cost any more than 3G-only phones. You can buy a great phone that supports LTE for as little as $49.

Myth 5: LTE is new and not supported by many devices yet

Reality: 4G LTE launched back in 2009, and has been available in the U.S. since December of 2010. More than fifty different mobile devices now support LTE. Learn more about the history of 4G LTE here.

Myth 6: AT&T and Verizon have similar 4G coverage

Reality: Verizon has LTE support in more than 250 cities, while AT&T is in less than 40 cities. Sprint and T-Mobile do not currently offer 4G LTE service. See the coverage map above for more details. To access the newest coverage maps, download Sensorly or the Cell Phone Coverage Map app by Root Metrics in Google Play or the App Store.

Don’t expect to get a 4G signal everywhere you are

Myth 7: Most carriers have good LTE coverage in large cities

Reality: Even if your carrier has 4G coverage in your city, don't expect to get LTE everywhere you go. I only see 4G light up about 30% of the time.

It’s hard to use more than 2 or 3GB of data

Myth 8: HSPA+ results in higher speeds when LTE is not available.

Reality: This depends. In theory having HSPA+ to fall back should result in higher speeds, but according to experts, network congestion makes the drop-off from LTE on AT&T’s network to be just about as steep as Verizon’s.

Myth 9: Using a 4G phone will cause you to exceed your data allowance

Reality: In most cases this is untrue. Sure you’ll be able to download data much more quickly, but unless you stream a lot of HD movies, you’re going to have a hard time exceeding the 4GB data limit that carriers like Verizon are currently offering. Even if you do crazy things like backing up your entire phone to Drop Box with Titanium Backup, it’s hard to go over your limit.

Myth 10: Verizon’s network often feels faster than AT&T’s — even though its data rate is slower

Reality: This is true. According to a CNN article: “Verizon also has by far the quickest network response time, meaning that Web pages begin loading faster than on any other network after a user clicks on a link. Verizon’s network starts churning in half the time it takes AT&T’s to respond, and often about a third of the time it takes Sprint’s network.”

Myth 11: 4G can quickly drain your battery

Reality: This is true. That's why 4G phones like the Droid Razr MAXX include much more powerful batteries. If your 4G phone does not have an extended life battery, upgrade it, buy a second battery, or turn off 4G when you’re in an area without 4G coverage.

Some 4G phones have better battery life than 3G phones

Myth 12: Verizon users cannot talk and access the Internet at the same time

Reality: This is no longer true. You can use any app to access the Internet after you make a call (e.g. Google Maps, web browser, etc.)

VoLTE allows you to talk over 4G

Myth 13: 4G can improve the quality of voice calls

Reality: This is true. Several carriers outside of the U.S. are preparing to launch VoLTE, which along with HD voice codecs, can have dramatic difference on the quality of your voice calls. Verizon is rumored to be launching a voice over LTE service early in 2013.

Myth 14: HSPA+ is not capable of LTE-like speeds

Reality: In most cases this is true. HSPA+ is capable of real world download speeds of 4Mbps and higher. Some have even seen HSPA+ speeds as high as 16Mbps when stationary, but these drop way down when you are walking or in a moving car. More info.

Myth 15: The next big thing after 4G will be 5G

Reality: Not true. Carriers plan to increase their data rates beyond current LTE limits by using two 20 MHz channels and/or MIMO antenna arrays. Sprint says this will allow their network to reach speeds of up to 168Mbps.

As long as you own a device which supports LTE, you’ll enjoy getting data speeds on your phone which are faster than those that you get over home DSL.

– Rick

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

Visualizing the Social Web

Why Android Sometimes Gets a Bad Rap

There’s a reason most people think the iPhone is better than Android phones, but it’s not what you think.

Most People Prefer iPhone

Surveys show most consumers prefer the iPhone to Android phones. Although consumers who have switched will tell you it was because the iPhone is a better phone, there is strong evidence against this. The best Android phones are faster, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S. They also have bigger screens, higher-resolution displays, more powerful batteries and data speeds that are up to 30 times faster than the iPhone 4S. As far as hardware goes, it’s hard to find much the iPhone does better than the best Android phones. [Scroll to the bottom of this article for more details]

Software Superiority?

Software superiority is another thing you’ll hear iPhone users tout over Android, but the quality of Android apps has dramatically improved over the past few years. In some cases, popular Android apps are actually better than their iPhone equivalents (e.g. Facebook, Google Maps, etc.). What about stability? Recent studies show that iOS apps crash more than Android apps. What about the operating system? Although you’d think iOS 5.0 would have more advantages over Android 4.0, it’s the other way around. Here’s proof. So, why does everyone think iPhone is better than Android phones? You’ll hear fragmentation mentioned a lot, but I don’t think that’s the biggest reason. There is a strong argument that the biggest problems facing Android today are caused by those who sell it. I’m talking about the retailers, carriers, salespeople and handset manufacturers.

Too Many Choices

As far as the retailers go, I believe the carriers and big box retailers are one of the biggest reasons consumers think Android phones are inferior. When a consumer goes into a retailer like Best Buy they are often overwhelmed by the number of different Android phones the store carries. Most are the phones are old and should have been removed from the shelves. Some of the phones were bad phones the day they were released. Gizmodo just printed a list of the worst phones you can buy and you’ll find many of these in carrier stores and big box retailers today. I looked at last week’s Best Buy newspaper ad and saw that two of Gizmodo’s “worst phones” were being advertised in it. The odds of a typical consumer picking one of the best Android phones in a big box retailer is slim.

Apple displays no more than four phones on each side of a table

The Apple Experience

When you go to an Apple Store there is almost always only one type of iPhone on display. It’s always the newest iPhone and it sells for $199 to $399 (with a two-year contract). The only decision you need to make is what color case you want, and how much storage you need. It’s impossible to purchase a bad iPhone in a retail store. The contrast between the Apple and Android shopping experiences is dramatic.

You Get What You Pay For

When most consumers shop for a new Android phone the number one thing they look for is price. They want a deal and most of the time the deals are on older phones, which are slower and are not running the newest version of Android. Cheap Android phones have low-quality displays and slow processors. Most of the time, they look and feel cheap. There is a reason these phones are not being sold for list price. You get what you pay for. You’ll never see an iPhone 4S for free. They cost $199 to $399 (with a service plan) and they are worth it. Just like the best Android phones are worth $199 to $299. The bitter irony is the fact that you can often find great Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on sites like Amazon for as little as $49. Deals on old iPhones exist as well, if you know where to look.

Few People Run Android 4.0

Fragmentation may not be the biggest problem, but it is an important issue. Studies show 80% of all iOS users are running the newest iOS software (iOS 5.0 or later) while only 5% of all Android users are running Android 4.0. Update: As of July, this number is 11%, but it’s still too low. Most smartphone owners have never even seen Android 4.0 in action. The majority of Android users (64%) are running Android 2.3, which was released way back in December of 2010. Google has made hundreds of improvements to Android since then.

Here’s a list of Android phones which are running Android 4.0.

Good Advertising is Essential

The Quad-core based Asus Transformer Prime was a revolutionary tablet when it was released back in December of 2011, but it was never advertised on TV. I don’t remember seeing it in any print-based ads either. How did it sell? I should not come as a surprise that the iPad 2 eclipsed it in sales, even though the Transformer Prime is much faster, thinner, lighter and has many other advantages.

While Android tablet ads are rare, it’s impossible to watch TV without being bombarded by Apple’s ads. Apple advertises far more than any other mobile device manufacturer. They teach consumers how to use their products feature by feature, and they make you feel like you must purchase their products or you’ll be left out. And it works like a charm. Millions of people line up to buy every new Apple product – even the ones which aren’t that great.

Google’s Nexus phones provide a more iPhone-like experience

Every iPhone is a Nexus Phone

Once a year Google releases a new Nexus phone with the newest Android OS, state of the art hardware and no carrier bloatware. Since Google and other developers use this phone to test their own software, these phones tend to be very reliable. You could say that every iPhone is a Nexus phone. Apple comes out with one new phone a year and they have all of the advantages of a Nexus phone.

Don’t compare apples to oranges

Comparing Apples to Apples

The bottom line is you can’t compare apples to oranges when you’re shopping for a new phone. If you’re prepared to spend $200-300 on an iPhone, you should look at Android phones in the same price range. It’s not fair to compare a $300 iPhone that’s only been out for a few months with a two year old Android phone that’s free. Never buy an Android phone that isn’t running the newest OS, and take the time to learn which are the best smartphone before you go into a store. You owe it to yourself to get the best phone your money can buy — even if that means buying an Android or Windows phone.

Fixing Android’s Perception Problems

There are some things Google (along with those who manufacture and sell Android devices) could do to be on a more level playing field with Apple.

  • Google should open up their Nexus phone program to any phone that meets strict guidelines (no carrier bloatware, newest OS, quality components, etc).
  • Google should raise the bar on their Nexus program so it includes things like minimum battery life requirements.
  • Google should insist that carriers make all OS updates available immediately. Verizon has caused big problems in this area.
  • Google should start an Intel Inside-like marketing program like where they provide marketing dollars to those who meet strict guidelines. This would make it easier for manufacturers to advertise their products on television.
  • Retailers should reduce the number of Android phones they carry, and stop advertising bad phones.
  • Retailers should color-code phone signage so it’s more clear what the best phones are from each carrier.
  • Handset manufacturers should focus more on quality — and not quantity, and advertise their products more.
  • Everyone should produce commercials that appear to typical consumers. It’s amazing how many bad Android commercials there are. This is one thing Apple does very well.

Will Google change? There are signs they may be changing already. Expect to hear more at their Developers conference in June.

Android Phones that are Superior to the iPhone 4S

Here are some examples where Android phones beat the iPhone 4S in side-by-side hardware comparisons:

  • Android phones that have faster CPUs than the iPhone 4S include the HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and many others.
  • Android phones that are thinner than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, Droid RAZR Maxx, HTC One X, HTC One S and others.
  • Android phones that are lighter than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, HTC One X, HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and others.
  • Android phones with higher-resolution displays than the iPhone 4S include: HTC Rezound, LG Nitro HD and others.
  • Android phones that have bigger screens with more pixels than the iPhone 4S include: HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with more powerful batteries than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One S, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with much faster data speeds than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.

In the end, the decision which smartphone to purchase is yours. Since there is a good chance you’ll have to use it for at least two years, make sure to choose wisely.

– Rick

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

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

Things that Happen in an Internet Minute…

Things that Happen in an Internet Minute...

Nokia’s Amazing New 38MP Cameraphone

A Camera Phone with More Resolution than a Digital SLR?

Symbian may be dying, but Nokia it is not. By now you’ve probably heard about their 38-megapixel camera phone, which was announced last week at the Mobile World Congress show. The Symbian-based Nokia 808 PureView has a Carl Zeiss 41-megapixel sensor and takes photos which have more resolution than some high-end consumer DSLRs. I know this sounds like a gimmick, but seeing is believing. Full resolution photo samples can be viewed here. Just make sure to right-click on the photo sample and select original size.

What you already know: The 808 PureView has an f2.4 aperture lens and takes great looking 38MP photos. The reason the photos look so good is the use of a 41-megapixel sensor and Carl Zeiss optics along with Nokia’s brand-new pixel oversampling technology. They claim the camera has a large sensor which captures up to five times as much light as a conventional camera. It’s also one of the only camera phones with a xenon flash. Its video camera shoots full HD 1080p footage at 30 frames per second with a 4X lossless zoom. Just how good is it for video? See it in action here:

What you don’t already know about Nokia’s new camera phone

The camera is supposed to launch in the second quarter and uses a pixel over-sampling technology is supposed to ensure no loss of detail when zooming in on images. Apparently Nokia uses a technology called pixel-binning which reduces noise makes this possible. The demos shown of the show floor were truly impressive. The person I was talking to took a picture of her jeans and then tapped on the screen to zoom in to the point you could see individual fibers. You can also slide your finger on the screen to zoom. Photos taken by the phone are 7728×5368 pixels. 16:9 photos are 34MP, not 38MP and occupy 9 to 16MB of space. Although the 808 PureView only has 16GB of internal memory, it supports MicroSD cards up to 48GB. Although there hasn’t been much talk about the speed of the phone, I was told it can focus and take a photo in less than one second. Basic specs can be found here. Technical details can be found here.

The First Phone Capable of Great Live Recordings

I spoke at length with Nokia’s Senior Manager for Audio Hardware and got some juicy details you won’t find anywhere else on the Internet. Anyone who has ever tried to record a live concert with an iPhone knows you cannot do it without using expensive third-party mics. This video compares recordings of a live band made on the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II and Nokia 808. Both the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S II distort horribly. They also both roll-off most of the low frequencies causing the bass guitar to almost disappear. According to Nokia, this roll-off begins at 200Hz, and is very sharp. See the chart below for proof of this. Nokia’s PureView technology records audio down to 25Hz. Why is Nokia’s recording so much better than other smartphones? Most smartphones have a single mic which is optimized for voice. Nokia uses two good omnidirectional mics, so it’s capable of recording stereo music. But that’s not why it sounds so much better than the others. Their audio hardware has been designed so it’s capable of recording audio up to 147dB without audible distortion. The frequency response of their new audio hardware is also relatively flat. Down 3dB at 40Hz and 20kHz. There is currently a nasty 8-10dB peak around 8kHz, but Nokia says they will tune that out before the 808 PureView ships. There are only two issues I see with Nokia’s Rich Recording technology. The first is the fact that it operates at a very low-level and is not part of the 808’s camera app. This could make it hard to port to non-Symbian phones. Second, their recording app encodes all audio as AAC Plus files, instead of linear audio files. However their audio expert claims that sound APIs are available which could make linear audio recordings possible in the future.

Nokia’s Secret Internal-only Audio Charts

I was able to obtain photos of two internal Nokia charts which you won’t find anywhere else. The first shows how typical smartphones start to distort around the sound levels experienced at concerts.

The second chart shows how the iPhone 4S has almost 20dB of attenuation at low frequencies. Sorry for the low-quality, but these were taken quickly from an iPhone 4 under less than ideal conditions.


 

Will Anyone Buy This Product?

It’s rare that a company comes out with a product that leapfrogs its competitors as much as the PureView 808 has. However, this shouldn’t be a total surprise to those who have been following Nokia for some time. Nokia came out with it’s first camera phone back in 2002. Followed by an 8MP camera phone in 2009, and the world’s first 12MP camera phone in 2010. The PureView 808 may be years ahead of what Apple is doing in terms of audio, video and photo quality, but it’s unclear to me who will pay $200-$500 for a Symbian-based phone in 2012. This will get interesting however when Nokia releases this technology on the Windows platform. But, because this is so closely tied with Symbian, that could take longer than expected.

Other Nokia Announcements

Nokia also announced a new fast browser or some of its lower-end phones which is supposed to be capable of compressing data traffic up to 90%


Nokia was also showing a free new streaming music app for Windows Phones called Nokia Music. Like Pandora, it creates stations based on artist searches. Unlike Pandora, it can store up to four stations so they are available offline listening. Stations are limited to 50 songs per track however.

Unfortunately their new Lumia 800 phones which come with this app use Microsoft’s Zune app to sync music. Windows Phone Connector on Mac. Nokia also showed some new Play 360 speakers which uses Bluetooth to beam music from the phone. Just tap your Lumia 800/900 phone to connect, no pairing is required because the phones include NFC support.

– Rick

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

A First Look at Samsung’s Galaxy Beam

A Projector in Your Pocket


The biggest news so far at Mobile World Congress is hidden in a small room in the back of the Samsung booth. Samsung’s Galaxy Beam is a smartphone like no other. The phone has a built-in DLP projector, and puts out a surprising amount of light for its size (15 lumen). Pico projectors are nothing new; They’ve been demonstrated by Samsung and others since 2009, but this one is supposed to ship in the first half of this year.

The first big surprise at Mobile World Congress is from Samsung

Thinner than You Think

The phone is only 12.55mm thick which makes it thinner than an HTC Rezound (and only 3.25mm thicker than an iPhone 4S). The projector project whatever is on your phone screen on the wall up to 50”.

I saw it open a PowerPoint slideshow and project it on the wall. Once open, you can use your finger to draw on the slides. Very cool.

Although Samsung claims this device can play a full movie (up to 3 hours) with the built-in 2000 mAh battery. The device does gets pretty warm, so I’ll be curious to see if this is true.

A special app comes with the Galaxy Beam which lets you select what is displayed and draw on the screen. (See photo on the right)

I’ll write more about the other hot new products from Mobile World Congress later.

– Rick

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

Ten Popular Myths about Google Wallet & NFC

Last update: May 15, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Google Wallet and NFC

You can make a purchase without opening the Google Wallet app


With all the talk about Google Wallet being hacked, I thought it might be nice to do a story about it. In case you don’t already know, Google Wallet allows you to make purchases by tapping your NFC-enabled smartphone at PayPass cash registers or terminals. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and allows two devices to communicate when they’re moved close together. NFC builds upon earlier RFID-based systems like smart cards by allowing two-way communication. Smart cards are only capable of one-way communication. NFC also has advantages over wireless standards like Bluetooth, because it doesn’t require pairing. It also sets up faster, requires less power, and has a shorter range than Bluetooth, which reduces the chance of unwanted interception. Although NFC has been in products for more than six years, there is still a lot of misinformation about it. Let’s start by addressing some of the biggest myths:

Ten Myths about Google Wallet and NFC

  1. Myth: Google Wallet was hacked and is unsafe to use – Reality: While it’s true that the original Google Wallet was hacked, there was little risk to anyone who used a PIN, or pattern-based screen lock and no risk unless your phone was taken by someone with access to the hack. Besides, this issue was fixed by a software update. Even if your phone was stolen by a hacker, the same rules apply to Google Wallet which apply to traditional credit cards. In most cases you have no liability, and unlike your credit card, a hacker can only spend money which was added to your Google Wallet.
  1. Myth: Google Wallet only works with Citi MasterCard – Reality: Not true. Back in August, Google rolled out a cloud-based version of Google Wallet which supports all major credit and debit cards. Since that time Google Wallet usage has more than doubled. You just link one or more of your cards with Google Wallet and it remembers all of your data.
  1. Myth: Only a few phones support NFC today – Reality: Nine out of ten cellphone makers have phones on the market this year with an NFC chip inside them [Source: ABI Research]. Examples include the Samsung Galaxy SIII, LG Nexus 4, HTC Droid DNA, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus S, LG Intuition, HTC Evo 4G LTE and Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket. Over 60 other devices support NFC today as well including other phones from RIM (Blackberry), HTC, LG, Nokia and Samsung. Here is the full list. ABI forecasts that 285 million smartphones and tablets with embedded NFC chips will ship in 2013, up from 102 million this year. Google Wallet is also preloaded on the NFC-enabled Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. Soon you may not need your carriers permission or an NFC-enabled phone to buy things using Google Wallet. Google’s new credit card is rumored to work anywhere that accepts traditional credit or debit cards.

You can use Google Wallet anywhere you see these images

  1. Myth: Google Wallet is only accepted by a few merchants – Reality: Google Wallet is currently accepted at over thirty different retail chains including 7 Eleven, American Eagle, Banana Republic, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Champs, Chevron, Container Store, CVS Pharmacy, Duane Reade, Einstein Bros Bagels, Foot Locker, Guess, Home Depot, Jack in the Box, Jamba Juice, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Noah’s Bagles, Office Max, Old Navy, Peet’s Coffee, Pinkberry, Radio Shack, Rite Aid, Sports Authority, Sunoco (gas station), Toys R US, Whole Foods, Yellow Cab (NYC) and others. That doesn’t seem like much, but it means you can use your Google Wallet at over 300,000 MasterCard PayPass-enabled terminals. The Google Market has an app called MasterCard PayPass Locator, which helps you to locate places you can use Google Wallet, but it’s missing many places which accept it. Look for these symbols above to find merchants who accept Google Wallet. Google Wallet can also be used for in-app payments on your mobile devices although there has been some controversy over this. Experts say in five years 86 percent of all North American merchants will have NFC-enabled terminals. However, only 53 percent of merchants will support NFC worldwide by 2017.
  1. Myth: NFC is new and unproven – Reality: NFC phones have been around since 2006. NFC has been used by consumers in Japan, South Korea and European cities for several years without problems. London buses now accept payment from NFC-enabled phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III.
  1. Myth: Most carriers are still preventing Google Wallet from being installed on their devices – Reality: Google Wallet can now be installed on every mobile device in the U.S. running Android 2.3 and later. It can even be downloaded on devices without NFC support and formerly carrier blocked devices like the Verizon Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. That’s the good news. The bad news is, for now, Tap and pay functionality is available in the US, and requires one of the following NFC-enabled Android devices shown here with a Secure Element chip, on select carrier networks. In other words, if you’re not on Sprint or have a Nexus device, you’re still screwed.
  1. Myth: No signature is required when buying things using Google Wallet – Reality: Although this is generally true, a signature may be required when purchasing items costing $30 or more.
  1. Myth: Apple doesn’t plan to support NFC – Reality: According to Bloomberg, future generations of iPhone, iPod and iPad will support NFC. Windows Phone 8 is also rumored to support NFC.
  1. Myth: Google Wallet will quickly drain your battery – Reality: Although this was true earlier, the problem was fixed by a software update. Enabling NFC consumes some power, but on my phone it’s responsible for less than 2% of total battery usage.
  2. This explains how you can purchase things without an Internet connection

    This explains how you can purchase things without an Internet connection

  1. Myth: You need to have an Internet connection in order to buy something using Google Wallet. Reality: Not true. You do not need to be connected to a Wi-Fi or 3G/4G network in order to Tap and Pay using Google Wallet. That means tablet users without cellular service can use Google Wallet for purchases.

How To Secure Your Google Wallet

As mentioned earlier, the best way to protect your Google Wallet is to lock your screen. “Face Unlock,” “Pattern,” “PIN” and “Password” are all ways to do this. If you’re still worried, here are some more extreme steps to secure your Google Wallet:

There are several easy ways you can secure your phone

  1. Make sure “USB debugging” is not enabled – When enabled, the data on mobile devices can be accessed without first passing a lock screen challenge unless full disk encryption is also enabled.
  2. Enable full disk encryption – This will prevent even USB Debugging from bypassing the lock screen.

If your phone is stolen and you have Google Wallet installed, Google recommends you call 855-492-5538, and ask them to disable your prepaid card.
 

Not Just For Financial Transactions

NFC isn’t just good for financial transactions. Google Wallet also includes support for SingleTap, enabling users to redeem coupons and earn reward points. NFC can also be used to share contacts, photos and other files. If you’re running Android 4.0 today, you can Android Beam web pages, contacts, maps, YouTube videos and more, from one phone to another. Users of the popular Foursquare app can now bump phones and transfer places visited or lists. They can also check-in or initiate friend requests wherever NFC tags are. Imagine going to a venue and touching on a sign with an embedded NFC tag to check in. Pretty cool.

NFC isn’t just good for mobile payments, in the future NFC may even help you set up Wi-Fi connections, or enter multiplayer mobile games. There are so many things NFC is good for. I’m looking forward to using my phone to pay for mass transit. That way I won’t have to take out my wallet on a crowded train platform. You can even order business cards with an NFC chip into them, which will take the person you give them to a URL of your choosing. The main advantage to these is the fact that the URL can be changed without reprinting more business cards.

NFC isn’t limited to smartphones either. Next generation computers like the Sony Tap 20 and Duo 11, will include NFC support so you can beam data from your phone to computer, by simply touching them together. You can also purchase a Nexus 7 tablet for only $199 which has full support for NFC and Google Wallet. That’s one of the easiest ways to try Google Wallet at the moment, since carriers like Verizon are still trying to block it.

Google Wallet Isn’t the Only Game In Town

There are other mobile payment systems as well. One of the most promising is called Isis. Like Google Wallet, Isis lets you add your credit cards to your mobile wallet, but that’s not all. Isis is also supposed to let you add debit and loyalty cards to your mobile wallet, and provide access to personalized offers. That means after you use your phone to pay for a Starbucks coffee, you can tap again to get a discount or add the purchase to your Starbucks loyalty card. Isis is currently being tested in two U.S. cities, and coming soon to NFC-enabled phones from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

According to an article in Mobile Week, Isis has some distinct advantages because it’s setting up a system that can give financial institutions the reassurance that transactions conducted by smartphone will be secure. Isis has also lined up cards from Chase, Capital One, American Express and Barclays. Its transactions are supported by the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover payment networks.

Isis isn’t the only new player. Retailers including Walmart, Target, Sears and others announced their own own payment system back in August called MCX. Since then they’ve gone dark however.

ISIS is conducting a mobile payment trail in two U.S. cities

ISIS is conducting a mobile payment trail in two U.S. cities

October Updates

  • Customers in Salt Lake City and Austin can now download the Isis Mobile Wallet from Google Play. Although Isis hopes to have twenty phones supported by the end of the year, only three Verizon phones are support at the moment: the HTC DROID Incredible 4G LTE by HTC, the Motorola DROID RAZR HD and the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD. Before Verizon customers can use Isis they must first get a new SIM card, then add their credit, debit and loyalty cards into the Wallet. T-Mobile currently has three Isis-ready devices: the Samsung’s Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S II and Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G.
  • With or without Apple, the NFC mobile payments will hit $100 billion in by 2016.
  • Other Recent NFC-related Announcements

    November Updates

  • It appears Google will be releasing their own Google Wallet Card. You can add money to it like a debit card, and use it anyplace credit cards are accepted. Money added to this card can also be spent using the Google Wallet app running on supported NFC devices like the Nexus 7 tablet and more eligible devices. More info.
  • Google Wallet will soon let you make purchases on mobile sites. Soon you’ll be able to buy things from websites using your phone and Google Wallet. Google will auto-fill your name, billing address and card information into the proper fields of the website, making purchases faster and easier. More info.
  • Visa’s mobile payments platform V.me also recently emerged from a year long beta and is now available at 23 retailers and 53 different banks.
  • Chinese smartphone manufacturer GEAK recently announced an NFC ring that stores your identity, unlocks your smartphone and can share your contact info with others.
  • Soon you'll be able to use your phone to unlock your door

    Soon you’ll be able to use your phone to unlock your door

    Spring 2013 Updates

  • Hyundai is showing a concept car which allows users to unlock their car by tapping their phone on an NFC tag on the car door. They plan to release this publicly by 2015.
  • Belkin’s new HD Bluetooth music receiver uses NFC “tap-and-play” pairing.
  • LG Electronics is coming out with new NFC-enabled smart appliances that will let the user start a load of laundry while driving home from work, tell a robotic cleaner to vacuum the floor, or view what’s in a refrigerator from their smartphone.
  • Soon you will be able to unlock your door using an NFC-enabled Android phone like the Galaxy S III. The ShareKey app will also allow you to grant access to others for a specific time period. That way a repair person could enter your residence when you aren’t home.
  • At the end of January, Google updated Google Wallet with a new Holo-style user interface, better application stability and improved battery life.
  • A new app lets users users to add digital information to Near Field Communication (NFC) business cards.
  • Google Wallet now allows you to attach money to an email just like a photo or file.
  • Summer Updates

  • Google Wallet launched a new promotion with popular Android apps and websites in a bid to increase its brand recognition. Gives financial incentives of $15 to $25.
  • Brother announces the first NFC-enabled printers, which let consumer to tap their NFC-enabled smart device to the printer and print (or scan) a document or image.
  • Other Updates

  • Google is bringing NFC-enabled app vending machines to Japan. More info
  • Google is testing NFC security tokens that could get rid of the password for good. More info.
  • Mobile payment service Isis plans to celebrate their (better late than never) nationwide launch with 1 million free smoothies. More info.
  • Using NFC, IBM brings dual-factor authentication to mobile. More info
  • 7-Eleven, Best Buy cease NFC trials – “Near-field communication trials at some Best Buy and 7-Eleven stores are ending, as the retailers haven’t seen a payoff for the costs involved in enabling the technology, Rebecca Borison writes. “For various reasons NFC-based mobile payments options have yet to gain traction, and NFC provides no real benefit to the customer over other less costly options,” 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said. Best Buy and 7-Eleven may implement the mobile-payment service to be offered by the Merchant Customer Exchange.” Source
  • Isis claims to have activated 20,000 accounts a day over the past month, doubling its March activity. They now have 600,000 subscribers and are supported on 68 phones. Source
  • – Rick

    Where to Learn More

  • Learn more about Google Wallet.
  • Learn more about NFC.
  • Learn more about Android Beam.
  • Learn more about Foursquare’s support for NFC.
  • How to get Google Wallet to work on a rooted Verizon Samsung Galaxy SIII. Step-by-step instructions. For advanced users only.
  • Here’s a great story about a Wired writer who went without a wallet for an entire month.
  • How the fragmented world of mobile wallets will sow confusion.
  • 8 scenarios where NFC makes sense
  • NFC: Not just for mobile payments anymore (CNET)
  • NFC becoming more main stream with operators driving SIM-based NFC. As an example, Samsung teamed up with Visa to make mobile payments common place.
  • The first NFC payment service is being launched in China, in a joint collaboration between China Unicom and China Merchants Bank (CMB).
  • Copyright 2013-2014 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.


    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    The Pros and Cons of Rooting Your Phone

    Last update: November 28, 2013

    This article has had over 90,000 views! Thanks for reading it.

    Rooting your mobile device allows you to do things which are not possible on a normal smartphone or tablet. Carriers normally prevent access to root-level files, because you could delete essential files or cause others problems. Unfortunately this limits what you can do with your mobile devices. You bought it and you should have the right to do whatever you want with it. There are some compelling reasons why you should consider rooting your device.

    Reasons to Root

      Imagine sharing your phone's fast 4G connection with your tablet

    1. Free Tethering – You already pay for a mobile data plan and shouldn’t you have to pay more to share your cellular connection with your other devices. Just download a free tethering app, and in seconds you’ll be able to share your phones cellular modem with your tablet, laptop or other devices. Now you can access the Internet from your tablet even when a Wi-Fi hotspot is not available. Wi-Fi isn’t your only option, you can also tether your devices over Bluetooth, or by connecting a USB cable. Although you don’t need to root your phone to run tethering apps like FoxFi, ClockworkMod Tether or 1-Click WiFi Tether, some of the best tethering apps only work on rooted phones.
    2. Delete Carrier Bloatware – Carriers load your phone with lots of apps you’ll never use. These apps consume storage space, memory and other resources. After rooting your phone, it’s easy to delete carrier-installed apps you don’t want. Although there are several ways to do this, I recommend you download Titanium Backup. This app allows you to uninstall any app with a single click.
    3. Eliminate Banner Ads – Apps like AdFree remove most advertisements that appear in your browser and other apps. This is done using a blacklist which blocks ads before they can even download data. Now you can play Angry Birds and most other apps ad-free. This is a big deal, because it means you can get one of the biggest benefits of paid apps for free.
    4. Apps like Titanium Backup can backup everything on your phone and sync it with the cloud

    5. Backup Everything on Your Phone – Apps like Titanium Backup allow you automatically backup everything on your phone. This includes protected apps, system apps and data on your SD card. If you purchase a license key for Titanium Backup you can upload your backups to your free Dropbox account. This makes it easy to restore a backup from the cloud if your phone is ever lost or stolen.
    6. Make Your Phone Run Faster – Apps like SetCPU allow you to overclock the speed of your processor to make your phone run faster. More info.
    7. Increase Your Battery Life – Custom ROMs and apps like SetCPU increase the battery life of your phone. In some cases the difference is significant. For example, a Nexus 7 running a CyanogenMod ROM gets up to twice the battery life of an off-the-shelf Nexus 7.
    8. Install Custom ROMs – After you root your phone, you can install custom ROMs which give your phone better battery life, faster performance, custom themes and additional features like special audio processing. Cynanogenmod is the most popular aftermarket firmware. It has a new installer that is very easy to use.
    9. Run Any App You Like – Once you root your phone you’ll be able to install any app you like. This includes apps that have been blocked by your carrier, or banned by Google.
    10. Run Apps on Your SD Card – Most mobile devices do not allow you to install or move apps to your SD card. By doing this you free up internal memory.
    11. Perform Other UI Tweaks – Want to remove the search box from your home screen and replace it with a search button? No problem. What about adding back a menu button to the main screen of your phone. Again, no problem. Do a Google Search or check the XDA Developers forums to learn more about these and many others UI tweaks.

    Popular Myths About Rooting

    1. Rooting Voids Your Warranty – Although it’s true rooting your phone could void its warranty, if you restore it to its original factory condition, it’s unlikely your carrier could tell it was ever rooted.
    2. It’s Easy to Brick your Phone – Not true. Most Android phones are not easy to brick, if you carefully follow directions.
    3. Rooting is a Cat and Mouse Game – Not true. Once you root your phone you normally won’t have to do it again.
    4. Rooting is Difficult – Although it varies from phone to phone, rooting your phone isn’t as hard as it once was. In fact, one-click rooting apps are available in the Android Market.
    5. Rooting Will Make Your Phone Less Stable – Not true. When done correctly, rooting your phone will not make it any less stable.
    6. Rooting Makes It Hard to Transfer or Sell Your Phone to Another Person – Not true. I recently gave my rooted Galaxy Nexus to my son. He inserted the SIM card which was provided by Verizon for my new phone and then called a toll-free number to activate it. He then reset the phone (to wipe out all of my info) and rebooted (entering his Google account info). Withing 15 minutes, all essential services were functional on his rooted phone, and the phone was automatically downloading all of his apps.
    7. You Can’t Root a Phone With a Locked Bootloader – Not always true. A friend just rooted his Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 even though it has a locked boot-loader. Instructions can be found here.

    Reasons Not to Root

    Although rooting your phone isn’t as dangerous as most people think, it’s not for everyone. Here are some risks you should be aware of before you root your phone.

      Overclocking your phone too much could cause it to overheat

    1. Rooting Could Be Illegal – Back in July of 2010, the U.S. federal government recognized the legality of jailbreaking a phone. Unfortunately starting on January 26th of 2013, it officially become illegal” to unlock a phone without your carriers permission. It’s still to soon to know whether this applies to all rooting, but it does not look good. Carriers like T-Mobile recommend customers contact their device manufacturer or AT&T directly to request the unlock code for their device, but don’t be surprised if these aren’t easy to get.
    2. Rooting Isn’t for Everyone – Although there a one-touch rooting solutions, I wouldn’t say rooting is easy yet. Some phones are easier to root than others. Make sure to do some serious research to find if others with your model are having good results when they try to root them.
    3. Rooting May Prevent You from Getting Updates – If you root your phone you may no longer be able to download and install over-the-air operating system updates. This was a problem for me when Verizon released Android 4.0.4 and 4.1 updates for my phone. There is a way around this, but it’s not easy. This issue affected my Samsung Galaxy Nexus — but probably applies to all Android phones and other carriers.
    4. Overclocking Can Cause Damage – If you overclock your phone too much you could cause it to overheat. You could even damage its processor, although some phones have safeguardus to prevent this.
    5. You May Need to Wipe Your Phone – In some cases you have to wipe your phone when you root it, so make sure to copy your media off of your phone. It’s also a good idea to make screen shots of all of your home screens and app page, so you can quickly restore your device to the same look and feel you had before.
    6. Issues With Some Media Rentals – You could receive an error when attempting to play a rented movie on a rooted device.
    7. Legal Risks – And last, but not least, the use of tethering software may violate your carrier’s Terms of Service — whatever that means. I’m unaware of anyone who has been prosecuted because they unlocked or rooted their phone.

    A Checklist for First-timers

      Rooting is not something you should attempt to do quickly. I recommend you complete this entire checklist before rooting your phone:

    1. Make sure you have step-by-step instructions for your exact model of phone before beginning.
    2. Make sure you have everything you need before beginning. This includes software drivers, ROMs, required apps, etc.
    3. Make sure to create a backup of your phone and all of its data before you root it. Some backup software doesn’t automatically backup all of your music and photos, so you might want to manually back those up.
    4. Make sure you know how to restore your phone to its original factory state if you don’t like the result of the rooting process. Even if you brick your phone, you can often restore it to its original factory condition. Here are some steps how to do this. Although these apply to the Samsung Galaxy S III, the information here applies to other phones as well.
    5. Try to find someone who can help you if problems occur. Your carrier will not help you if things don’t go right.

    Important: If you have any doubts after reading this, do not proceed until you can find someone to help you. I cannot help you, nor can I assume any responsibility for bricked phones.

    Some Important Closing Thoughts

    Although rooting is still too technical for many users, the process is getting easier. Unfortunately, you may now need an unlock code from your carrier to legally unlock your phone and you are unlikely to get that unless your contract is up. Rooting your phone for the first time can be scary, but I believe the benefits far exceed the risks. In the six months since I first rooted my phone, my experience has been 100% problem free — with one notable exception. When Verizon released OS updates for my rooted phone, I was unable to install them. Although I was able to find a solution to the problem online, it wasn’t simple, and required me to either restore my phone to stock, or wipe it and manually install the software update. Although major OS updates don’t happen that often, this is something to consider before rooting.

    Where to Learn More

    1. Android ROM and rooting dictionary for beginners
    2. Android 101: Rooting, Jailbreaking and Unlocking
    3. What is Rooting? (AndroidPIT Modder’s Guide)
    4. How To Root The Galaxy S II
    5. How To Install A Custom ROM On Your Rooted Samsung Galaxy S II
    6. Step-by-step instructions how to root the Samsung Galaxy S III
    7. A List of Good Root-only Apps (and more reasons to root)
    8. How to Un-root Your Samsung Galaxy S III and flash it back to Android 4.0.4
    9. How to hack your Android like a pro: Rooting and ROMs explained

    – Rick

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


    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    Today’s Best Smartphones (February 2012)


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

    When it comes to overall specs, it's hard to beat Samsung's Galaxy Series

    And the Winners Are…

    Back in December I created a chart of the top smartphones available at the time. Since then, a lot has happened, so I’ve updated my list. Here are the top five smartphones available today:

     

    HTC Rezound

    LG Nitro HD

    Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx

    Samsung Galaxy Nexus

    Samsung Galaxy Note

    Processor

    1.5 GHz dual-core

    1.5 GHz dual-core

    1.2 GHz dual-core

    1.2 GHz dual-core

    1.5 GHz dual-core

    RAM

    1GB

    1GB

    1GB

    1GB

    1GB

    Storage

    16GB

    16+4GB

    16+16GB

    32GB

    TBD

    Screen size

    4.3”

    4.5”

    4.3”

    4.65”

    5.3”

    Resolution

    1280×720

    1280×720

    960×540

    1280×720

    1280×800

    Pixel density

    342 ppi

     329 ppi

    256 ppi

    316 ppi

    285 ppi

    Rear cam

    8MP

    8MP

    8MP

    5MP

    8MP

    Front cam

    2MP

    1.3MP

    1.3MP

    1.3MP

    2MP

    Network

    LTE

    LTE

    LTE

    LTE

    LTE

    5GHz Wi-Fi

    No

    No

    No

    Yes

    Yes

    Bluetooth

    3.0

    3.0

    4.0

    3.0

    3.0

    NFC

    No

    No

    No

    Yes

    Yes

    Thickness

     13.65mm

    10.4mm

    8.99mm

    9.47mm

    9.65mm

    Weight

    164g

    128g

    145g

    150g

    178g

    Battery

     1620 mAh

    1830 mAh

    3300 mAh

    1850 mAh

    2500 mAh

    OS

    Android 2.3.4

    Android 2.3.5

    Android 2.3.5

    Android 4.0.2

    Android 2.3.5

    Carrier

    Verizon

    AT&T

    Verizon

    Verizon

    AT&T

      Comments

    • Although the Rezound is the thickest phone here, it has the highest pixel density, and a very fast processor. For now, it stays on the ‘best’ list.
    • You could argue the Droid RAZR belongs in the above chart because it’s thinner and lighter than the RAZR Maxx, but battery life is such an important issue on LTE phones. The RAZR Maxx’s 3300mAh battery has 85% more current than the 1780mAh battery in the original RAZR. Even with the extended battery, the RAZR Maxx is still the thinnest phone in the above chart.
    • Sprint will be releasing a Galaxy Nexus in the first half of this year that is rumored to have a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, 2100mAh extended battery and a functioning Google Wallet. The original Galaxy Nexus is capable of supporting NFC, but Verizon blocks users from downloading the Google Wallet. Smart users know of a trick which allows Verizon users to download and install Google Wallet from the Android Market.
    • Although the Galaxy Note became available in Europe last year, it’s rumored to go on sale here in the U.S. on February 19th.

    Although iPhone 4 sales are better than ever, it no longer competes when it comes to most specs.

    Close, But No Cigar

    You may have noticed that some phones which were included in my December list, have fallen by the wayside. This includes the iPhone 4S and several other phones which are still good, but no longer compare with the best phones. Each has at least one major flaw.

     

    Apple iPhone 4S

    HTC Vivid

    Motorola Droid RAZR

    Motorola Droid 4

    Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

    Processor

    800MHz dual-core

    1.2 GHz dual-core

    1.2 GHz dual-core

    1.2 GHz dual-core

    1.5 GHz dual-core

    RAM

    512MB

    1GB

    1GB

    1GB

    1GB

    Storage

    16GB, 32GB, 64GB

    16GB

    16+16GB

    16GB

    16GB

    Screen size

    3.5”

    4.5”

    4.3”

    4.0”

    4.5”

    Resolution

    960×640

    960×540

    960×540

    960×540

    800×480

    Pixel density

    326 ppi

    245 ppi

    256 ppi

    275 ppi

    207 ppi

    Rear cam

    8MP

    8MP

    8MP

    8MP

    8MP

    Front cam

    0.3MP

    1.3MP

    1.3MP

    1.3MP

    2MP

    Network

    HSPA

    LTE/HSPA+

    LTE

    LTE

    LTE/HSPA+

    5GHz Wi-Fi

    No

    No

    No

    No

    Yes

    Bluetooth

    4.0

    3.0

    4.0

    4.0

    3.0

    NFC

    No

    No

    No

    No

    Yes

    Thickness

    9.3mm

    11.2mm

    7.1mm

    12.99mm

    9.40mm

    Weight

    140g

    177g

    127g

    179g

    132g

    Battery

    1420 mAh

    1620 mAh

    1780 mAh

    1785 mAh

    1850 mAh

    OS

    iOS 5.0

    Android 2.3.5

    Android 2.3.5

    Android 2.3.5

    Android 2.3.4

    Carrier(s)

    AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

    AT&T

    Verizon

    Verizon 2/10

    AT&T

      Comments

    • You could argue the Droid RAZR belongs in the first list because it’s thinner and lighter than the Maxx, but battery life is such an important issue with LTE phones that I favored the RAZR Maxx over the older Droid. It’s 3300mAh battery has 85% more current than the battery in the original Droid Razr.
    • I debated whether the soon to be released Droid 4 belonged in the first chart, but it’s lacking a HD screen and it is one the thickest and heaviest of all of these phones. If you’ve just got to have a real keyboard, you might be willing to overlook these problems.
    • I also debated whether the Galaxy S II Skyrocket belonged in the first chart, because it has such a fast processor. I left it out because it has the worst screen of any of the phones here.
    • Windows Phone fans might ask why the Titan isn’t in this chart, because it has a 1.5GHz processor and a 4.7″ screen. I left it out because it doesn’t have a HD screen and the Titan II is just around the corner..
    • Why The iPhone 4S Is No Longer One of The Best

      Some of you are probably wondering why the iPhone 4S is no longer listed in the chart of best smartphones. The answer is easy: The iPhone 4S hasn’t been competitive for a while. It has an under-clocked processor that runs at almost half the speed of the best Android phones. While it’s true the iPhone does well in some graphics-related benchmarks, the fastest Android phones kill it in side-by-side real world speed tests. If you want to see just how much faster the Droid RAZR is than the iPhone 4S, watch this video.The iPhone also doesn’t have a 720p HD display, and believe it or not, it’s not a real 4G phone. That means its data speeds are 5-10x slower than most 4G LTE phones. If you’re a hard-core Apple fan, you’ll probably buy the iPhone 4S anyway, and that’s O.K — just don’t say you weren’t warned. Two years is a long time to own a non-4G phone.

      Several new quad-core phones will be demonstrated in Spain next month. As soon as new phones are released, I’ll update this chart.

      If you think I missed a phone that should be considered, please let me know.

      – Rick

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