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
 

What is the Best Smartphone You Can Buy Today?

One of these is the best smartphone available today. Which one is it? [Phone sizes adjusted so they appear uniform]


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

Evaluating the Hardware

Who makes the world’s best smartphone? Most people would probably say the iPhone 4S, since it seems like everyone has one. But is it really the best? Let’s find out. I started by making a chart of the specs for all currently available smartphones from U.S. carriers.

The Top Five Finalists

Next, I narrowed down the list of candidates to the best five phones based on hardware specs. I was surprised that some of the most popular phones did not not make this list. I’ll discuss this more below, but first, the top five finalists based on hardware specs are:

HTC Evo 4G LTE

HTC One X

LG Nitro HD

Motorola ATRIX HD

Samsung Galaxy S III (U.S.)

Processor

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

RAM

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

2GB

Storage

16GB

16GB

20GB

16GB

16 or 32GB

Screen size

4.7”

4.7”

4.5”

4.5”

4.8”

Resolution

1280×720

1280×720

1280×720

1280×720

1280×720

Pixel density

312ppi

312 ppi

329 ppi

326 ppi

306 ppi

Rear cam

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

Front cam

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.9MP

Network

LTE

LTE

LTE

LTE

LTE

5GHz WiFi

No

No

No

No

Yes

Bluetooth

4.0

4.0

3.0

4.0

4.0

NFC

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Thickness

8.9mm

8.9mm

10.4mm

8.4mm

7.6mm

Weight

134g

129g

127g

140g

133g

Battery

2000 mAh

1800 mAh

1830 mAh

1780 mAh

2100 mAh

OS

Android 4.0.3

Android 4.0.3

Android 2.3.5

Android 4.0.4

Android 4.0.4

Carrier

Sprint

AT&T

AT&T

AT&T

All

There are big differences between the above phones in terms of screen size and thickness [Chart: Phone Arena]

Creating the above list was not easy because there are phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note, HTC Rezound, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC One S and Motorola Droid Razr Maxx which excel in some areas, but lag in others. However, in the end all of those were dropped because the above phones were better overall.

And the Winner is…

As you can see from the chart above, when it comes to specs, the Samsung Galaxy SIII beats or ties the best smartphones in all areas except pixel density and weight. Even in those areas, it’s no slouch. Most reviewers would probably give second place to the HTC One X, but the LG Nitro HD wins in both lightness and pixel density. The HTC Evo 4G LTE and Motorola ATRIX HD are also very good phones.

Based on specs alone, the Samsung Galaxy SIII is the best smartphone available today

Smartphones That Didn’t Make the Cut

There is a fairly long list of smartphones which are good, but don’t deserve to be on the “best” list because they are flawed in one or more areas. You can view these in the chart below.

Click on the chart below to make it larger and more readable.

Red-faced text shows areas where these phones under-performed. Blue-faced text indicates areas where some phones did well.

Although iPhone 4S sales continue to be strong, it no longer competes when it comes to most specs.

 

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 long time when it comes to hardware specs. In fact the iPhone 4S no longer beats the best Android phones in any of the benchmarks or specifications listed in this article. If you’re a hard-core Apple fan, you’ll probably buy an iPhone 4S anyway — just don’t say you weren’t warned. Two years is a long time to own an under-performing 3G phone that doesn’t support 4G LTE. I’m not saying the iPhone is a bad phone — it’s not, but I was surprised to find that Android phones now outperform it in almost every way. For example:

  • The best Android phones are capable of data speeds which are up to 30x faster than iPhone 4S
  • The best Android phone has 4 times the memory than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S3 2048MB vs. 512MB)
  • The best Android phones have processors which run almost twice the speed of the iPhone 4S (iPhone runs at 800MHz, all of the best Android phones run at 1.5GHz)
  • Several Android phones have quad-core processors, while the iPhone 4S only has a dual-core processor. I didn’t include those in the above chart, because they’re not available in the U.S. yet.
  • The best Android phones have browser performance that is 96% faster than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S III Intl. BrowserMark benchmark scores)
  • The best Android phone has a screen which is over 50% larger than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy Note 5.3” vs. 3.5”)
  • The best Android phone has a screen which has 66% more pixels than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy Note 1,024,000 vs. 614,000)
  • The best Android phones have 41% faster GPU performance than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S III GLBenchmark 2.1 – Egypt Offscreen 720)
  • At least 3 Android phones have greater pixel densities than the iPhone 4S (HTC Rezound 342 ppi vs. 326 ppi)
  • The best Windows phone has a rear camera with twice the resolution of the iPhone 4S (HTC Titan II has 16MP vs. 8MP on iPhone 4S)
  • Almost every Android phone has a better front camera than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy Note has 2.0MP vs. 0.3MP on iPhone 4S)
  • The best Android phone is 24% thinner than the iPhone 4S (Droid RAZR 7.1mm vs 9.3mm). At least 8 other Android phones are thinner than iPhone 4S.
  • The best Android phone is 15% lighter than the iPhone 4S. This is surprising because the best Android phones are much larger than iPhone. (HTC One S 119g vs. 140g)
  • Many Android phones have microSD slots, so consumers can easily and cheaply exceed the 64GB internal memory of most expensive iPhone 4S.
  • The best Android phones support NFC for easy purchasing and LTE for lightning-fast data speeds up to 30x faster than iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S has none of this.
  • The best Android phone has a battery with more than twice the power of the iPhone 4S (Droid RAZR Maxx 3300mAh vs. 1420 mAh). This translates to over 21 hours talk time versus 14 hours talk time).
  • The best Android phones have Javascript performance that is 37% better than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S III SunSpider Javascript benchmark scores)
  •  
    There is hope for Apple however. An iPhone 5 is rumored to be coming this fall. After it is released, I’ll update this chart and see how it compares to the other smartphones available at that time.

    The One Benchmark the iPhone 4S Excels At

    It is surprising that the world’s most popular phone gets beat in every single spec listed above. This didn’t used to be the case. It used to be the other way around with iPhone dominating smartphone specs. There is still one thing that the iPhone 4S can beat Android phones at: cellphone radiation. The iPhone 4S has over 300% more radiation than the Samsung Galaxy SIII. That’s very surprising because the Samsung Galaxy SIII has more radios and is capable of much higher data speeds than the iPhone 4S. If you own an iPhone 4S, you might want to get a Bluetooth earpiece if you don’t have one already.

    The iPhone 4S has over 300% more radiation than the Samsung Galaxy SIII

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

    – Rick

    P.S. Some of you are probably thinking this article relates to only hardware — not software. You’re right. Read this to see how Android compares to the newest version of iOS.

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

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    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

    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

    iOS 5.0’s Advantages over Android 4.0

    This article was just updated! You can view the new version here. It compares iOS 6 to Android 4.1.

    Android has come a long way, but iOS is very mature and still has quite a few advantages over Android. Yesterday I listed the things I like better about Android 4.0 OS. Here are the things I miss most from iOS 5.0 and the Apple mobile ecosystem.

    1. Better overall app quality – Android apps have improved, but still don’t match the App Store when it comes to overall app quality. Apple tests all apps and it shows. Apple also excels in categories like games.
    1. Few tablet-optimized apps – Andy Rubin once said he didn’t think there should be apps specific to a tablet. I don’t agree with this statement. While it’s true, a well-designed app should adapt to different screen sizes, iPad-optimized apps provide a much better experience than standard iPhone apps. I wish the Android Market had a filter for tablet-optimized apps.
    1. More iOS-only or iOS first apps – By now you’d think all popular apps would be available on both platforms, but that’s not the case. Android is still missing some popular iOS apps. To make things worse, even when developers support both platforms, they often release their iOS apps first. If I were Google, I would provide incentives to top app developers to make sure they release their popular apps at the same time on both platforms.
    1. iCloud – Google had a huge lead in the area of cloud-based apps, but they still haven’t put together a comprehensive solution like Apple has with iCloud. Sure you could create an iCloud-like solution, but you’d have to do with a collection of apps. Apple makes it easier.
    1. Better intelligent personal assistant – I’ve tried Iris and a few other Siri competitors on Android and they don’t compete with Siri yet. It’s ironic that Google let Apple win in this area, because they still have better cloud-based voice recognition and return more useful search results in general.
    1. Better cut and paste – Apple has done a better job implementing their cut and paste. The also have more region selection options. This is one of the things I miss the most.
    1. Better calendar app – Another thing I miss is the iOS calendar. I found it much easier to add appointments to the Apple Calendar than the Android Calendar.
    1. No carrier bloatware – Carriers load all non-Nexus Android phones with useless apps. Some of these are links to paid services, others are carrier-branded apps. Most are things you don’t need and will never use. They clutter your screens and can’t be removed.
    1. Less OS fragmentation – Carriers decide which versions of the Android OS to include. Oftentimes they do not allow users to upgrade to the newest OS. This combined with carrier skins makes the Android experience vary from phone to phone. Although Apple does have some problems with fragmentation of older phones (e.g. iPhone 3G), it’s not near as bad as most Android phones.
    1. Better voice mail app – I think it’s ridiculous that I have to dial *86 to get voice-mail on my Galaxy Nexus. You’d think its 1998, not 2012. Apple’s phone app has dedicated voice mail button and its interface is excellent.
    1. Better power management – iOS devices seem to have power management than Android devices. Some of this may be a result of the fact that iOS doesn’t allow third-party apps to run in the background. Others might have to do with the fact that iPhone 4S has an under-clocked processor and no LTE support. Whatever the reason, it’s an Apple advantage.
    1. One-button operation – Apple uses a single button to return to the Home screen, display the search box, and show recently opened apps. Is it intuitive? No, but once you learn it, it works well.

    These are the things that I miss about iOS. What did I leave out?

    This article was just updated! You can view the new version here. It compares iOS 6 to Android 4.1.

    – Rick

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

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    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.