Android Arena

Will HTC survive, and why One X and One S failed.

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If you follow mobile phone news, it is probably no secret to you that HTC is in pretty dire situation right now, and continues to decline. Reasons for HTC’s decline are many, and I personally am very saddened by this situation, and really hope the company will turn around, and come out stronger and better. In this opus, I will try to present my thoughts on why the sales of HTC phones are falling and what they should do to reverse this trend.

I want to first mention that I really like HTC phones, the company, and I hope that my next device will be HTC. But, I’m not a blind fan-boy, and I will be choosing very carefully, when time comes.

I also want to say that I am currently rocking an HTC Amaze 4G, which I purchased in May 2012, AFTER One X and One S phones came out and were available for sale. This was a conscious decision on my part to skip One series, which I will explain below.

HTC’s current situation:

While HTC is in decline, it is not dead, and there are ways for company to come out of this crisis! Yes, sales and margins are falling. Yes, company’s stock lost 90% of its value of the last year and a half. However, Let’s face it – unlike Nokia and RIM (BlackBerry), HTC is still making money – this is huge!

The way I see it, we can logically separate HTC’s situation into two parts – before Q4 of 2011, when problems became apparent and official, and Q1 of 2012 onward, when HTC announced, and soon after, released its “One” series of phones (One X, One S, and One V).

Since the decline began a year ago, many, including HTC itself were saying that problem was due to “too many similar phones”, industrial-looking design, and high prices. That may be so, but at this point, I want to concentrate on why HTC One series, which was supposed to reverse companies misfortunes, failed. I think that pre ONE series issues and not that relevant any more.

Why HTC ONE X and ONE S failed:

HTC came up with ONE series to reduces number of devices and to create clear diversification between its models, aiming at Premium, Middle and Budget segments. Original idea was met with great enthusiasm, and when HTC finally announce ONE X and ONE S phones, everyone was very excited about them. At the same time I decided that I WILL NOT be getting either phone for myself, and I was not alone.

As sales numbers showed later, HTC failed to meet even their own sales projections. Here is why:

Note – i will not be mentioning One V phone, as it is more of a budget device, and does not contribute much to HTC’s bottom line. HTC as well as other manufacturers, makes most money on premium phones, and most of it’s competition is in premium market – iPhone, Galaxy S series, etc. Competing in budget sector is a sure suicide for HTC, as they will never be able to be better AND cheaper than Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi, and other smaller companies.

Horrible planning of ONE series:

At the time of the announcement, everyone knew that HTC’s main competitor in Android market – Samsung, was about to launch its own latest flagship phone – Galaxy S3. HTC was hoping that with early announcement of ONE series, WMC in Barcelona, in Feb. 2012, they would create enough buzz for their phones. And they did. Only people realize that the way HTC designed their phones, discouraged many loyal fans and potential buyers. Additionally, exact phone details allowed Samsung to put a slight delay on Galaxy S3 release, and to change their flagship so that it would “kill” the ONE X in nearly every category. As we now know – they more than succeeded in doing so.

Bad design of the ONE series:

Ok – maybe One X and One S are nat bad phones per-se. But in the eyes of general public, Galaxy S3 is just better. Also, even before Galaxy S3 was announced, most complains about ONE series was lack of removable storage and removable battery. Samsung quickly picked up on this trend, and made sure that S3 has both!

HTC decided to copy successful thing that main competition uses to their advantage – only they pick a “wrong” leader to follow (read Apple).

Why HTC designed ONE series the way they did:

In just a few words – One Series failed because of lack of removable storage (no Micro SD cards slots) and removable battery (unibody design).

In business, you want to take the best that competition has to offer, package it all into one product and sell it for slightly less. This will ensure a success. Right – only not always.

HTC picked a wrong “leader” to copy after. They decided to repeat the success of iPhone, and essentially created a model line that is a mirror image of the iPhone, from a “theoretical” point of view.

Both iPhone and HTC One series have non-removable storage and battery, and HTC wrongfully though that if Apple can do it, than so can we. Wrong!

HTC forgot 2 major reasons (aspects) of why they cannot copy Apple’s success it such manner.

Reason 1) Apple iPhone was the first really usable smartphone on the market

Before first usable Android phones came out, iPhone 4 was almost ready to be released, and 3GS was ruling the smartphone market. When I bought my first and last iPhone (3GS), there were no other phones that could do what 3GS could. At that time, I loved the iPhone what what it could do, what I could do with it, and because no other phone could do the same!

HTC/T-Mobile G1 was a “joke” in my opinion, though it was a decent phone for its time. Nokia – I had one for 2 months preceding iPhone, and would never go back to it. Later, Nexus One came out, which in my opinion is the first real alternative to iPhone.

iPhone had no alternatives when it came out. So people bought it, regardless of its limitations in removable storage and battery. At the same time, a huge base of loyal iPhone / Apple fans was created. A great ecosystem was in place. People were heavily invested in apps, and would not switch to a competing platform (Android).

Apple conditioned their fans that removable storage and battery are not necessary, and now iPhone fans (majority of them) truly believe in it.

HTC on the hand, tried to force people into a wrong (in my opinion) premise that they do not need the option to add storage or change a battery. BIG FAIL!

Reason 2) HTC is making Android phones, which assumes OPEN platform, and availability of options

People who choose to buy iPhone will buy it regardless! A good friend of mine, was in love with iPhone 4 design, and bough it, without regard for hardware limitations and lack of options when it comes to iOS. And he was coming from Android phone. He is also a power used and a software engineer, writing apps for both iOS and Android. THat was a conscious decision to get iPhone – on of those “i want” ones. No amount of persuasion will change their minds.

On the other hand, people who go the Android route, do so mostly because they DO NOT want iPhone or Apple. I’m one of them. Once I realized how much more Android has to offer, I jumped iPhone ship and never looked back. I still very much hate iOS ecosystem, iTunes and most things Apple (except for Apple hardware – they build really nice devices – I must give them that).

Basically, HTC targeted ONE series to the wrong crowd, while completely ignoring their loyal fans (like myself) and potential buyers. They forgot that Android buyers want the OPPOSITE of iPhone – openness and options!

Why I skipped ONE X and Galaxy S3, and went for 1 year old HTC Amaze 4G:

Phones are personal! We all choose our phones based on what WE need. So this will be a personal overview of why I chose not to get either One X/S or S3.

While most people will have their own reason for not getting ONE X or ONE S, and most of them did go for S3, I chose an “outdated” Amaze 4G. I skipped HTC One series mainly because of lack of SD Card (I could live with non-removable battery).

I also skipped S3, because… I just do like HTC, and Amaze 4G seemed like a great phone, not much different from newer quad core models. I also knew that quad core (Tegra 3) has little to offer me in terms of performance boost, since I don’t play games, and that it’s buggy and can get very slow (based on my experience with ASUS Transformer Prime and Pad 300T – both Tegra 3 devices).

What I needed a sexy, smaller phone (I already had a Galaxy Note which was plenty fast), with FAST and GOOD camera, and a physical camera button. For me camera is VERY important – I need to be able to engage camera and take a shot in less than 3 seconds (preferably 1 second), and Amaze allows me to do so, while other phones (including S3 and One X) do not!

Amaze 4G was also discounted by T-Mobile, since One S came out, and I picked on up for $450 (plus tax), and with a $100 trade in – totaling $350.

In fact, ever since Amaze 4G came out in the summer of 2011, I wanted it. At that time i had HTC Inspire 4G (Desire HD on AT&T), and while it still is a great phone, camera on it is HORRIBLE!

Why not HTC One S?

Ahhh, One S … a castrate of a phone. Ok, One S is a good phone. But in 2012, having less than 10 GB of usable storage is just painful! I now have a 64GB SD card 65% full of photos, videos and music. I would probably break One S out of anger, if I had one. In most other aspects it is a great device, and for someone not needing all that storage, it it big and compact at the same time, has great camera, very fast CPU, etc. But still, people need option to expand storage when needed, and One S does not have it!

Written by admin

August 29th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Android News

WiFi Tethering on Straight Talk

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In this guide, I will discuss EVERYTHING you need to know about WiFi tethering on Straight Talk – from which SIM card to get, and how to properly set it up, to what you should do, if you get caught and your SIM card gets disabled, and if you temporary loose your phone number, how to get it back.

Warning: All information below is provided for reference purposes ONLY, and we are not responsible for anything (including but not limited to, your sim card and phone being permanently disabled, losing you phone number, etc.). Anything you do, is at your own risk!

Why tethering on Straight Talk:

As you may or may not know, most carriers charge additional fees for wifi tethering (using your phone as to connect other devices to the internet via you 3G/4G data plan). They do so even if you have a tiered (limited) data plan. This, if you ask me is complete BS, because you are already paying for limited about of data (usually 2 or 3 or 5 GB). So why should you pay AT&T, Verizon and others, extra $15-20 / month extra, for something you already paid for?

However tethering being free or not, is not the topic I wanted to discuss. If you’ve read my other posts – I actively use Straight Talk. However, I take full advantage of it – I bought a SIM card for $15 and now I can use it with ANY phone of my choice – right now I use it in my Galaxy Note. However, I also have a T-Mobile unlimited small business plan, which I use as my primary phone for calls, and I don’t really need the included unlimited minutes on my Straight Talk line – I use it for tethering!

Straight Talk position on tethering:

In just a few words – NO tethering under any circumstances! They don’t even offer an optional tethering plan. However, there is always a way to game the system – that is until you get caught :)

Essentially there are two “types” of unlimited data plans on ST – the old “Straight Talk SIM Swap” method, where you took your SIM card from Nokie E71 / E5 and put it into Android phone.

Second “type” is the new “buy $15 SIM Card and use it with your Android / iPhone” plan.

Differences between the two:

Speeds and Carriers:

1st type works only with AT&T phones (to get full 3G/4G speed).

2nd type – you can choose between T-Mobile or AT&T SIM cards. While T-Mo sim card will most likely (I have not personally tested) give you HSPA+ 21 or maybe even (very unlikely) 42 mbps speeds, AT&T will have a much better overall coverage, and I personally tested it to have “4G” HSPA+ speeds (21 mbps), which were / are pretty good!

Legal details:

Warning! I did not personally read Straight Talk Terms and Conditions (T&C), so information below is ONLY my guesses based on my personal experience and what I read online!!! You should their T&C for yourself before making any buying decisions and I’m not responsible for ANYTHING!

With that out of the way, here are two “legal” or contract differences that I think are there:

Both plans include “Unlimited Web Browsing” – what does that mean for us?

With SIM Swap method, it is presumed that you will use older and less capable 3G phones, but still, as far as I know, T&C for those plans specifically say that you cannot stream YouTube and other similar services, download music, files, etc. It is also specifically stated (as I learned when my SIM card was disabled :) ) – you cannot tether!

You can only browse web pages from your phone! Of course I did not follow T&C by swapping SIM card from Nokia E71 into Galaxy Note. But nothing would happen if my DATA usage was moderate. It was not. I was streaming YouTube / Netflix, downloading roms, and (by mistake) uploading pictures to Google+ … in the end I used several GB of data, and my SIM and Nokia phone were permanently disabled :(

But fear not! I got a SIM card for $15, and am at it again!!!

$15 SIM Card plan is more liberal I believe, as it is assumed that you will use a newer “real” smartphone such as high-end Android phone or an iPhone. Therefore they (I believe) have included video streaming into the plan. If they wouldn’t – they would have WAY too many “Wal-Mart shoppers” (who often do not know much about all the details of theses palans and advanced phones) complaining that their phone / internet is not working.

The proof that the two “plans” are different – each type has its own APN settings – while first one is very similar to that of AT&T, second is much different. I will provide them below for reference purposes.

Why all this information and what does it have to do with WiFi Tethering?

With these liberal data plans available from Straight Talk, tethering is much more viable now. So the rest is technical – setting it up, not getting caught, and what to do if they do catch you and disable your service.

Get the 4

How to properly set up your phone for tethering:

Best thing to do is to install a custom rom on your phone – preferably not one based on stock roms from manufacturer or carrier. For example CyanogenMod, MIUI or any AOSP based rom. Reason for this – these roms will not have and carrier software, and it will be more difficult for them to track your tethering. If you can’t do it or don’t want to do it – you are still pretty safe to tether.

If you don’t want to install custom ROM, but have root, you should get “WiFi Tether for Roof Users” from Android Market (download here) and follow their setup instructions here. In theory WiFi Tether for Roof Users “tricks” carriers into thinking that you are not tethering. In reality, id does not always work as “promised”, but then again – developers of this app warn you right away that:

Use this application at your own risk. It is possible that use of this program may violate your carrier’s Terms of Use/Terms of Service.

Still, because you will be on Straight Talk, they don’t have optional tethering plans, thus if they catch you will get a warning that next time they will disconnect you.

Finally, if you are on stock rom and are not rooted, I would just enable tethering in settings, set up encryption and use Tethering Widget to quickly turn tethering on and off. This is what I use (but I’m on unlocked Galaxy Note with a custom ICS rom) without any issues.

What to do if you get disconnected and/or loose your phone number:

First – as with any carrier, you can transfer your existing number to Straight Talk. The question is -how much do you need your phone number? If you really need it, I suggest you do not tether aggressively! Put a 3G traffic monitor app on your phone and put a monthly limit to 2-3 GB. I would even break that into daily traffic limits. This is more or less safe.

Most likely scenario that can happen to you (and it happend to me), if you overuse data:

1) They will call you to let you know that you are abusing the system.
2) They will disable data (but phone calls will still work). Your 3G or H+ icon in the notification bar will disappear.
3) They may completely disable your sim card, but this is more likely for “SIM swap” cards.

How to get your internet / data connection restored:

If your 3G / H+ icon goes away, just call ST customer service from some other phone (because they will need to “troubleshoot” your phone with ST sim card), and just play dumb – something like: “Uh yea, I was trying to check my email, and my internet is not working…” – that is what I did , and it got restored in 2 minutes :).

What to do if your connection gets throttled down (speed reduced to 2G):

image of Straight Talk $45 unlimited plan Speed Test This also happened to me a month or so ago – my mobil data speed (download only) dropped down to dial-up levels – so much that Speed Test would not run successfully most of the time – and when it did, i was at 60-70 kbps, instead of typical 2500-5000 kbps. My up speed was still good – about 1000-1300 kbps.

So what I did – I called ST customer support (once again – from a different phone, so they can troubleshoot your ST SIM / phone), and told them that my interent is not working / very slow, sot that page in a browser loads longer than a minute and then stops loading. They were giving me a story that I’m in a bad reception area or that there are “temporary network issues”. Funny thing – we both knew its bull… So I said that it was working fine yesterday, and that I was in different areas of the state (which was true) and that my reception is full – 5 bars, and that there is something wrong on their end .. finally they just reset my SIM card, and all was great once again.

Basically – never admit that you are tethering (if you do) and that the browser on your phone is set to a “Desktop User Agent” – that is if they say that you connect to internet from your computer (imply tethering). And if they say that you are using to much data, tell them that you just check email, browse web from your phone and watch an occasional youtube video. Play dumb, and dont admit to overloading the network.

Also – do not actually overload the network – don’t download torrents and large files – you will just screw it up for everyone else. But moderate tethering and normal web browsing in just fine, and they should not give you hassles – you are after all paying for “Unlimited Web Browsing” and YouTube is web!

What to do if you SIM card / phone got disabled:

If you are using ST branded phone – they may actually disable it from functioning on their network. But, if you are getting just a SIM card – I assume you have a decent off-network phone, and besides, most ST phones are just junk – Except for LG Optimus Black – but that phone works on Sprint network only (CDMA) if I’m not mistaken, and you cannot put a SIM card in it. So for most of you with a SIM card, this will not be an issue. If your card got disabled, there is not much you can do – you will need to get another SIM for $15.

If you do care about keeping your number and your SIM is disabled – get a new one, but DO NOT activate it just yet. Along with SIM card you should also buy 1 month of Unlimited Talk / Text / Web card. When you have both – call ST, and ask to speak to a supervisor right away – lower level customer service people will be of no help.

When you talk to a supervisor, tell him/her that you have a phone number with them on your account – tell them the number, and tell them that you have a NEW sim card which you want to activate with that number. Make sure they understand you correctly – I assume ALL their customer support is outsourced to (most likely) India, judging from accent.

Once they activate your SIM with your number, they will ask for plan card number, and will walk you trough setiing up your phone, APNs, and other things.

If you don’t care about your phone number – you are much safer – if they disable your SIM, just get a new one, activate it, and put data plan on it. However this can become expensive – especially if you get disconnected only a few days into your monthly plan.

Best of luck!

Reference Info:

ST APN Settings for AT&T compatible SIM card:

NAME: straight talk
APN: att.mvno
PORT: 80

ST APN Settings for T-Mobile compatible SIM card:

NAME straight talk
APN wap.tracfone
PROXY leave blank
PORT 8080 8080
MMS PROXY leave blank
MMS PORT leave blank

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June 25th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

APP Review: Roofing Calculator for Realtors & Home Inspectors

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As a Realtor or Home Inspector you often get a question from your clients about how much a roof replacement would cost, and have to guestimate the price. Now, you can take advantage of a highly efficient, user-friendly Roofing Calculator App that will do all the hard work for you and immediately provide your clients with an accurate estimate of roof replacement costs. The Roofing Calculator App is very intuitive, easy to use, and does not require any in-depth knowledge about roofing. With the help of this app you can significantly improve your customer service and make more money by increasing your clients’satisfaction, which will lead to more home sales and future referrals. The Roofing Calculator app is available on the Android Market as well as (dreaded) Apple’s App Store.

In comparison to other similar apps, this Roofing Calculator App is more expensive, costing $19.99 USD (including lifetime upgrades). While you may be paying more upfront, the app’s advanced features and superior performance are well worth the price. You can take advantage of a wide range of customizable settings, easy-to-use functions, and highly accurate results that far outperform other roofing calculators, which are typically oversimplified and limited in their capability and precision.

Benefits for Real Estate Agents & Brokers:

As a Realtor you know that questions pertaining to a home’s roof are some of the most pertinent both to buyers and sellers and are often the cause of tension and stress in negotiations. Buyers are concerned with how long an exisiting roof will last and how much it will cost to replace it and sellers want to know the same thing, so that they can strike the best deal with the buyer if they will have to pay for roof replacement. Having a correct estimate is a key factor since a lot of money is at stake, and finding a roofing contractor takes time and complicates the process. The roofing calculator app simplifies everything by making an accurate roof replacement cost estimate available at the click of a button. By using the calculator to get an accurate estimate you can help expedite the negotiation process and make it go smoothly for both parties involved.

Moreover, if you have a roofer that you work with, you can essentially pre-sell a roofing job for them by using the calculator and negotiate your referral fees. The contractor can enter his own prices for labor and materials into the calculator, so that the estimate you give to your clients will be aligned with the estimate of the roofer that you will recommend. If your buyer or seller decides to take your recommendation and hire your roofing contractor, you will make money on brokering this deal.

Benefits for Home inspectors

As a home inspector you can take full advantage of the roofing calculator app by providing accurate information in your home inspection report about how much it would cost to replace a roof in case you find that a replacement is warranted. Your client will appreciate this accurate and timely information, and you can make it available to them without spending much time and effort, by using the Roofing Calculator App. It will give you an accurate estimate in seconds! Similarly to real estate brokers, you can also ask a roofing contractor that you know or work with to input all the necessary information about labor and materials costs, as well as create custom roof profiles that will make your estimating job even more fast and easy. Moreover, by syncing the prices of the calculator with those of your roofing contractor, you can also negotiate an agreement where you get a finder’s fee for referring your clients to your roofing contractor. Thus, using the Roofing Calculator App can not only help you increase customer satisfaction with your home inspection reports, but can also become an invaluable tool in generating additional income from roof replacement referrals.

How the Roofing Calculator App Works

As a real estate broker or home inspector you do not need to know the current market prices for labor and different types of roofing materials to use the Roofing Calculator quickly and efficiently. The Roofing Calculator App does all the thinking for you and gives you an accurate estimate in seconds! To begin using the app you can simply ask a roofing contractor that you know or work with to in-put appropriate values for the costs of materials and labor in to the calculator’s General Settings. A roofing contractor can also create custom profiles for different types of roofs and roofing materials that you can then easily access to do a specific roof estimate. The app will guide you to in-put basic information about a specific roof that it will use to complete the calculation.

Roofing Calculator App is equipped with a convenient Presentation Mode that you can display to your clients on the spot. The Presentation Mode has been specifically designed to only show the information that clients care about the most- estimated cost of roof replacement and the size of the roof. With this mode, your clients will not be overwhelmed with extra details, such as materials breakdown, and a roofing contractor’s labor / materials costs (available in the Contractor Mode of the Calculator).

Getting this app:

You can download it either from your device or from Market (App Store) website – links are below:

As mentioned – this app comes in at a rather hefty (for mobile apps) $20 price tag. On Android you have the typical 15 minutes try-out period. However we recommend you see the videos above and on Developer’s site, to see how this app works, and if it is for you. When we tested it out, it was rather overwhelming at first, but then, as a friend of mine helped me put in some prices and explained a few things, it became as easy as 1-2-3.

Android Market (Play Store): Roof Calculator for Android

Apple App Store: Roofing Calculator for iOS devices

Product Page: Roofing Calculator App

Written by admin

June 7th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Oracle sues Google over Java patents – the Beginning and the End

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Note to readers: I did not write this Oracle vs. Google article per-se. It was originally written by Eldar Murtazin of However, the original article is in Russian and was never translated in the English section of his site.

I find this to be one of the most interesting and deeply analytical articles on Oracle vs. Google case that I’ve read, and I wanted to share it with you. So I went ahead and translated it to the best of my ability, trying to convey Eldar’s ideas without changing the technicalities of the subject. I hope you like the article, and that I did not go off tangent, when translating it. Here is part one of this 3-part series. If / when Eldar writes next parts I will post them here for you.

However, since we all now know the outcome of the case, I think that parts 2 and 3 will never be published. I will include the details of the final verdict, below the article.

Nature of Oracle’s Java lawsuit agains Google:

Oracle is known to buy up companies and then “milking” their patent portfolios. This was one of the main ideas behind the Java lawsuit against Google. However, decision was not purely financial: Oracle’s CEO – Lawrence Ellison was also a close friend of Steve Jobs. Jobs promised a “thermo-nuclear war on Android”, which was one of his personal missions in life. Even before Jobs passed away, mr. Ellison promised to wage and win this “war on Android” as respect and commemoration of Steve Jobs. In Aug. 2010, Oracle officially filed their lawsuit against Google.

Enter Eldar: Oracle vs Google

We are witnessing this decade’s most epic law suite and its result may very well turn Android from a free operating system into a platform with sizable licensing fees payed out by Google or its partners. If Google looses this case, it will owe Oracle millions of dollars, which will undoubtedly have an impact on Google’s business. In a series of articles, we will analyze the basis for Oracle’s claims against Google, the reasons why they surfaced only in 2011, and the contending claims of each side.

As a result of Oracle’s active and even somewhat aggressive position, the public is now privy to Google’s internal documents related to the initial days of Android’s development. These unique documents allow a close look into the history of this project from the perspective of an insider, and the opportunity to learn about the factors that fueled the work done by Google’s engineers and developers. If you are expecting to see a descriptive analysis of the court proceedings, you will be disappointed, this article will focus on a number of different issues that relate to this case. Without delving into the details of technology, we will not be able to fairly assess the positions of opposing parties. I hope that this discussion will be as intriguing and exciting for you as it is for me.

What is Java and why are there feuds around it? Read the rest of this entry »

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June 7th, 2012 at 10:13 am

HTC Amaze 4G ICS (Android 4.0.3) hands-on review

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Back in the end of April, first Ice Cream Sandwich leak for HTC Amaze 4G became available. During same week, a team of Android devs / hackers from XDA, came up with a working (albeit very difficult to implement) S-OFF method for this great phone – that was a great week for Amaze 4G community, and since I just switched to T-mo that week* I got full benefit of both ICS and S-OFF immediately, why so many people have been waiting for both, for many months :)

* On April 26 I got a T-mobile $50/mo unlimited small business plan which I reviewed back in April – check back for my review of this plan and mini review of the Amaze 4G and why I got it, instead of HTC One S.

ICS for Amaze 4G – first impressions:

So, just as I got my sparkling new Amaze 4G, I went to HTC website Dev section and unlocked my phone. I then rooted it, installed custom recovery and (not sure in which order) I did S-OFF wire trick and installed Ice Cream Sandwich leaked rom with Sense 3.6 – and guys, WOW – it made the phone SO MUCH BETTER, compared to Gingerbread! I will provide links to S-OFF method and the roms / dev info at the end of this article.

Note: I actually used the phone with stock T-mo GB rom for a day or two as I was busy with life things, but rooted it as soon as I had time. This day or two gave me a decent enough impression of GB and something to compare against, when I installed ICS.

Custom ICS Android 4.0.3 rom for Amaze 4G: Since I can’t stand manufacturer and carrier bloatware, I went with a custom rom, where ALL T-mobile crapware and some Sense 3.6 apps were deleted.

I first installed a SpeedRom, but it continuously gave me Force Closes of Dialer app, so I immediately removed it and installed One Good Roof v3.7 – and let me tell you – it is one good rom! I have no glitches with it. I had only one reboot the entire month that I’ve been using it as my daily driver, and I think it is related to a buggy app. I also further cleaned up my phone by removing other unnecessary apps with Root Uninstaller, so I might have deleted something “important” :)

Get the 4

Major differences between ICS and GB on Amaze 4G:

1) ICS rom is running Sense v3.6 vs 3.0 on GB. I don’t really know what are the major differences, as I never really got to use GB stock rom, but I can tell you – 3.6 is much better than 2.5 which I had on my old HTC Desire HD / Inspire 4G.

Unfortunately, it is still not Sense 4.0, which is available on a VERY low end HTC One V, but not on HTC’s “best” phone of 2011 – very weird.

2) 2G Hardware Acceleration: Amaze 4G is running on a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm S3 chipset, with Adreno 220 GPU – I fill that it is a very powerful processor, but in GB, all two-dimensional (2D) graphics did not take advantage of extra power the processor had to offer. Instead they used main cpu to do all the work. In ICS, you can use a 3D processor to speed up the 2D graphics, and let main cpu run the actual OS and apps. As a result, this improve your battery life and speed of the phone!

3) Speaking of battery life – phone comes with 1700 mAh battery which is not the best, but pretty good for it’s screen size (to compare – HTC Desire HD has only 1230 mAh battery). However with all the HTC / T-mobile crapware installed on the phone, my battery life on GB was less than half a day. After I installed ICS, it lasts me almost a full day.

Keep in mind though – I attribute some of the battery drain to T-mobile’s “4G” network, and some to the 100% brightness that I usually have. You can always extend your battery live with external battery / solar charger, but they are bulky, and not always convenient.

4) Built in 3G/4G traffic monitor. This is a great feature, and I highly recommend everyone uses it, especially now, with tiered data plans from most carriers. I mad a mistake of not setting it up right away, and the stupid Google + app was syncing my 30+ GB of pictures with Picasa albums – this quickly took me over my 5GB of full-speed traffic and I was stuck with 2G service for 20+ days :(

Lesson learned – disable ALL unneeded syncing / delete Google+ app and more crapware :)

BTW guys – question for you – in Accounts and Sync, when I go to any Google Account, it also offers me to sync not just Google+ but also Picasa. What I want to know is which app is responsible for this??? I don’t have Picasa installed. Pleas let me know in the comments

I really don’t know what else to include here :) … the ICS feels great and VERY fast / fluid, with no lag at all (except for buggy apps – but that is not ICS problem). I highly recommend you install ICS on your phone.

However you may choose to get official OTA update, if you don’t feel like doing voodoo magic with your phone ( I mean to get S-OFF you actually need to use a wire to short-circuit some connectors, while your phone is on and connected to ADB – you can easily kill your phone this way 😀 ). Just make sure you back up all your data before you update, as I know some OTA updates are full-wipe, and will delete all your apps and settings.

PS – While writing this review, I realized that I had to jump through so many hoops, risking to completely brick my phone, just to get it working the way I want – this is even without installing my apps and settings. While I feel comfortable doing this, most users will never root their phone – never mind doing S-OFF wire tricks.

As a result – most Android phone users will be stuck with manufacturer and carrier installed crapware and suffer, waiting for months if not years to get updates, and live with phone lags and bad battery life. No wonder so many people say iPhone just works, and abandon Android, even given all its “greatness”.

So I will put together why I think Android phone makers kill their own sales, help promote iPhone, and how Apple told ALL carriers to “screw” and they did :), and why iPhone is still the best selling smartphone and will remain #1 for years to come ( as “sad” as that is :( ).

Amaze 4G ICS References: – note: most of the methods linked below can make your device completely unusable, and will void your warranty. Perform all actions at your own risk!

Follow ALL installation details – and you will have great success! Note – links below are placed in order of events that you must perform to install custom ICS room on your Amaze 4G. I will post my own rooting and S-OFF guide soon, as some instructions were poorly written and are difficult to understand. I will try to do a better job.

Amaze 4G Unlock – HTC.
Amaze 4G Root – XDA.
Amaze 4G S-OFF – XDA.
Amaze 4G Super CID (requires S-OFF) – XDA.
Amaze 4G OneGoodRom ICS 4.0.3 – XDA.

Roms I will be trying soon:

I will update my OneGooRom to current version 3.8 and will also try RMS Quick Sense v6 as well as “Sense-less” RMS rom, which is themed as Sense 4.0.

If you are already rocking ICS – congrats. If you plan to install it – be careful and do not rush, and have fun!

One last thing – check out my post on how to install screen protector on Amaze 4G.

Written by admin

May 29th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

ASUS Transformer Prime fiasco, and why I returned it.

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There have been many in-depth reviews of this first ever quad-core Android tablet, commercially available world-wide. In my review, I want to tell you my tale of using this potentially BEST tablet currently available on the market, my frustrations with it, why I returned it, and what this all means for ASUS.

Transformer Prime roots

In 2011, when Honeycomb (Android 3.x) came out, ASUS has made a great name for itself with its original Transformer (TF101), by building a quality tablet, with great specs (dual core Tegra 2, 1gb of ram, 16-32 gb of built-in memory, etc). But there were other VERY similar tablets at a comparable price from Motorola, Acer, Samsung, etc. What made OG Transformer really stand out of the crowd, and ensured great slaes for ASUS, was competitive pricing ($399), and availability of the AWESOME keyboard dock station, with a well-working touch-pad, multitude of ports and memory expansion slots, and an additional battery, that could extend the life of the tablet up-to an 16 hours.

OG Transformer Pad (TF101):

OG Transformer Pad was great and sold well. There were no comparable tablets and still aren’t. Samsung tried to have an external keyboard for its Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it was not fully integrated and sales were abismal at best (for the keyboard – not the Tab itself). The optional keyboard dock drove the sales of the Transformer, and was the real money-maker for ASUS (the tablet itself was sold for at near cost of manufacturing / support).

ASUS decided to capitalize on it’s success, and made a deal with NVIDIA to be the first manufacturer to make a tablet with Tegra 3 Quad-core ARM Cortex-9 CPU, and NVIDIA, also added a 5th helper core to Tegra 3, which would run non CPU-intensive tasks, while main cores would sleep, conserving energy. Prime was also supposed to be the first tablet running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.x).

ASUS Transformer Prime (TF201):

image of ASUS Transformer Prime TF201

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However, in rushing to be the first to the market, ASUS has made critical design mistakes with Prime, and also released the Prime, running Android 3.2 – not ICS, which I suppose was not ready at the time, or they ASUS still integrating its bloatware.

Why Transformer Prime failed to be the best Android tablet:

Here is a list of main hardware and software problems / flaws with the Prime:

Hardware Problems:

– GPS not working aout-of the box, and no software patches were able to fix it.
– On earlier models, WiFi was also, either not working or working poorly.
– No option to have 3G connectivity – and this is in the age when 50% of all phones are smartphone with 3G and 4G (LTE). This is more of a design and marketing mistake – not a flaw per se.
– Promised 8 hours of battery life (16 with keyboard dock) turned out to be more like 4 / 8 hours in real-life use. Of course I could lower screen brightness to 0% and disable EVERYTHING – but then what is the point of having a tablet?
– You cannot charge the prime from a normal USB connector – you MUST use supplied power adapter, into which you plug the supplied USB cable. This is VERY inconvenient, as I often do not want to carry the bulky adapter, but can often find USB ports from which I can charge the tablet.

GPS and WiFi issues are mainly related to an aluminum body of the Prime. This is strange, because iPad is also made of aluminum, but does not have either of these issues ( so much for luring customers away from Apple and iPads :( ).

ASUS later released a GPS Dongle (a special piece that you could plug into the Prime’s data port) to boost GPS signal – but they were late to make it available and took even longer to send them out. Also process of ordering one, was a serious pain in the A$$. I did not receive mine until end of April, while Prime came out in Oct/Nov of 2011 – that is freaking 6 months!

WiFi issues never got resolved for most early adopters.

Software problems: These are my personal findings, and they are supported my a multitude of same/similar complaints from other Prime users on XDA Developers Forum.

– Prime is HORRIBLY slow in Browser, Android Market/Play Store, games, and many other apps.
– Tablet can randomly reboot while you are using it.
– Tablet will often shut down while in “sleep” mode, either connected to dock or not.
– Upon first boot, the software update will be downloaded, and will be prompting you to install it. This will make your Prime unrootable, and if you ever want to root it and get rid of ASUS crapware or install custom ROM, you will have to use ASUS Unlock Tool, which will void your warranty.

Software bugs and crapware / bloatware made Prime very slow – slower than my dual-core Galaxy Note tablet-phone running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which does not have GPU hardware acceleration, which is a standard feature on Prime with ICS.

With all of the above problems / issues, most users were VERY unhappy with the Transformer Prime (which ASUS priced at a $499 – $100 more than OG Transformer) and many were returned. Those that did not return it, are still dealing with the hardware and software issues, and/or were forced to unlock their devices (loosing the warranty), to install a custom rom, in order to make the Prime somewhat usable.

I was one of those who returned the prime! I was glad to get rid of it, and very disappointed with ASUS. However, ASUS realized that Prime is DOA (dead on arrival), and has made a new version called Transformer Pad 300 – this runs the same Tegra 3, but clocked at a lower 1.2 GHZ (versus 1.5 GHz on prime), and has a not as good regular IPS screen (versus IPS+, which is way brighter, and much better in direct sunlight). However, Pad 300 is much thicker than Prime, and is more of a substitute for the OG Transformer, priced at $379 for a 16Gb version and $399 for 32Gb version.

Market consequences for ASUS and other Android Tablets, after Prime fiasco:

Transformer Prime made a bad name not just for itself and ASUS – it made ALL Android tablets look bad and overprice, compared to iPad, which is now a de facto standard for tablets, and against which Android is trying to compete.

Surprisingly enough, ASUS was chosen by Google to build the Nexus Tablet – a $200 7″ Android device with Tegra 3, made to promote Android tablets, and to compete with VERY successful Amazon Kindle Fire, and upcoming 7″ iPad. Still, most prime users have a bitter taste, and will most likely never buy another ASUS product.

I’m not one of them – I’ve been using ASUS products (such as motherboards) back in the times of Pentium 3 / AMD Athlon and had great success with them – I believe the fiasco of prime is due to ASUS trying to be the first to market, and that they’ve learned from their mistakes.

At the same time, if there were alternatives to Transformer that integrated a keyboard dock – I would most likely go with that. But there aren’t any – so I got a Tab 300, because I need a light-weight mini netbook that can turn into tablet, by removing the keyboard, and that would last 10+ hours. I will post my full review of TF300 soon, as well as rooting guide. But I do not represent the majority of tablet buyers – I have specific needs.

Transformer Prime fiasco did more disservice to the entire Android Tablet market – not just ASUS. Prime was supposed to be and iPad 2 killer, and a direct competitor to iPad 3. However, most people who returned the Prime (or even those who kept it) will very likely never get another Android tablet, and will disert to iPad camp. I find it sad, because if Prime did not have hardware problems and software glitches (which are not hard to fix – but ASUS is not fixing them).

Written by admin

May 25th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Solar phone chargers: one of the coolest gadgets ever?

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I’m sure you’ve all been in a situation where you are out and about, miles away from a charger, about to meet someone and your battery dies. It’s the worst! And as our phones become smarter and more powerful the life of a phone battery has reduced even more.

Android phones are especially knows to run out of juice fast. With all the manufacturer’s bloatware, and carriers useless apps that no one wants or uses, you are lucky if you get 3 hours of heavy use out of your Android smartphone. If your battery lasts till you get home from work to recharge it – it is a miracle. Especially so with new LTE devices, where 4G radio drains your battery at a much faster rate than commonplace 3G. And with the new 4.3″ or larger screen being a bare minimum for mid-range Android phones, and with some monster phones (such as my Samsung Galaxy Note) weighing in at 5.3″ screen diagonal, you need to be constantly connected to a power outlet.

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However there do exist some cool gadgets to help you stay charged up and ready should you need your phone, one of these gadgets is a solar phone charger. This nifty gadgets essentially a portable battery with solar panels on them, and what you can do is leave the charger out in the sun for approximately 2-3 hours until the indicator light turns on, then when its charged up you are ready to take it around with you and use it as a charger when you need it.

This is perfect for keeping in the car just in case of emergencies such as a car break down. You could literally leave it charging constantly in your car exposed to the sun and when you need it simply plug and charge. The charger comes with all the popular connectors such as usb, micro usb for Android phones, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, iPad, iPhone and iPod, and many others. Another additional feature of the solar phone charger is the ability to charge it through a usb connection to your computer. So if the sun isn’t particularly bright or need to charge it at night simply plug it in and you’re good to go.

Other interesting gadgets on offer from Powerbee are solar security lights, solar fountains, solar shed lights and many more solar-powered awesome gadgets.

I don’t know about you, but I run out of battery on my phone all the time, and find this solar charger to be one of the coolest gadgets I’ve come across. And my dad has an iPad, which he always forgets to charge – so I got him one of these! If you would like to know more – visit for more information.

Written by admin

May 23rd, 2012 at 1:54 pm

How to install XtremeGuard Screen Protector on HTC Amaze 4G

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In this step-by-step guide I will show you on how to apply XtremeGuard screen protector to HTC Amaze 4G android phone.

These screen guards are available on Amazon of from XtremeGuard website for about $5 or less.

Why XtremeGuard? I’ve used it for 5 month on my Galaxy Note, and I personally think this is the BEST screen protector there is. I’ve used many protectors, and problems with most of them is they peel on edges, dirt gets in, they tear / scratch, there are hard to remove bubbles, etc. With XtremGuard i did not have ANY of this problems! Note – this is NOT a paid promotion – I just like these screen protectors the most.

Watch our XtremeGuard installation video:

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How To Install XtremeGuard Screen Protector – step-by-step guide:

Caution: You will be using small amounts of water to apply XtremeGuard screen protector. This can damage your phone, and you may loose your warranty!

When installing XtremeGuard screen protector, there will be some water pushed out from under the film. Make sure it does not go into the ear-piece grill or inside the phone. Use paper towel to immediately wipe excess water off.

We are not responsible for any damages. Perform these procedures at your own risk!

image of HTC Amaze 4 with GxtremeGuard screen protector

To install, you will need clean working surface, paper towel, the screen protector, microfiber cloth to clean the screen, credit card to push out air / water bubbles, bawl of cold water and liquid soap (no more than 2 drips).

Step 1) Remove battery from the phone. This will ensure you don’t damage / short-circuit your device.
Step 2) Clean the screen of the phone. Remove all dirt, dust and lint, so you don’t have bubbles under your screen protector.
Step 3) Wet tips of your fingers, and separate screen protector from protective film.
Step 4) Wet the back/inside (side that will go against the screen) of the screen protector, and place it onto the phone screen.
Step 5) Position the screen protector, so it is properly aligned on all four sides.
Step 6) Push out air and water bubbles with credit card. Wipe excess water with paper towel or microfiber cloth.
Step 7) Let the phone and screen protector dry for at least 8 hours (better let it dry for 24 hours) before placing battery back in the phone.

You are done! If you still see small bubbles under screen right after you applied it – either push them out, or just wait for a day – they will go away.

These instructions will work for any other XtremeGuard screen protector

Enjoy your phone!

T-Mobile $49 plan vs Straight Talk $45 plan – Unlimited plans battle

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If you’ve read our other posts – I’ve talked about Straight Talk $45 unlimited minutes, text and web, and how you could take a sim out of your Nokia E71, and put it into an AT&T-compatible GSM Android phone of your choice, and get great service and your own phone (not being limited to ancient Nokia brick). This is referred to as “SIM swap”. Early this year, Straight Talk started offering you to buy a Straight Talk sim card for $15, and get $45 unlimited plan. This would not be limited to just AT&T phones any more – you can order a sim card that would work on either T-mobile or AT&T network (but not both at once).

The sim card offering makes “sim swap” obsolete for new Straight Talk customers. I will review this option soon, with details of how it works, data speeds, reception, and other nuances (like limits on “unlimited” data).

In this article, I want to discuss the alternative to a budget virtual carrier (MVNO) like Straight Talk / Metro PCS, etc. And this one is from a major carrier – T-mobile.

T-Mobile $49.99 unlimited plan for “small businesses” – preamble:

After unsuccessful takeover by AT&T (which I personally think is the best thing that happened in US mobile market in many recent years, as this would essentially create a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon, and would REALLY suck for all the consumers), T-mobile found itself with $4 billion in contract cancelation fee and extra network spectrum from AT&T. At the same time, T-mobile lost almost a year, during which, they signed up very few customers, and did not get the iPhone (one of the biggest driver of new contracts – just look at Sprint).

Essentially T-Mobile is now the smallest major carrier in US, and needs to catch up to the big boys, and even Sprint. What’s good with T-mo – they did not give up on expanding and upgrading their “4G” HSPA+ network, and even installed several 1900MHz towers here and there. They now have huge bandwidth capabilities and not too many people using the network – so their speeds are great (when you have reception).

T-mobile's Carly Foulkes increases 4G speeds :)

Now, trying to revamp themselves, and get more customers, T-Mobile has offered a new plan that is in the same price range as the MVNO’s (budget carriers) – $49.99 / month, with unlimited minutes, text and web (up to 5GB full speed data, which then gets throttled to EDGE speeds – but you don’t pay for extra traffic). In the age of no unlimited data plans in US – this is great and inexpensive. For $39.99 / month, you can get same plan, but only a 1000 anytime minutes (which is NOT enough for many people – myself including).

There is a catch however – this is a plan for Small Business customer – though I think if you come in and tell them that you are a DBA (“doing business as” non-incorporated small business), they will still hook you up.

Second catch – this plan assumes that you use your own device. If you want a subsidized phone – you will be paying $20 more per month to a total of $69.99. Over 2 years duration of the contract you will pay $480 more, which will cover the phone subsidy.

I personally usually buy my phone outright, and this is great for me – I will be paying less every month, and if I already have my own phone that I want to keep using – I don’t have to pay extra every months. Really like this T-Mo!

Just compare this to AT&T – there to get unlimited minutes, texts and ONLY 3GB of data, you will have to pay $119 + taxes ($69 unlimited minutes, $20 for unlimited SMS, and $30 for 3 GB of data, with extra traffic costing you $10 / 1GB). AT&T does not offer any bundled plans – only “a la carte”.

Of course there is an argument that T-mo has spotty coverage – and they do. But if you live in a major metropolitan area – you are good on coverage and data speeds, and you can’t beat T-Mobile’s prices.

T-Mobile vs. Straight Talk

As I mentioned – Straight Talk is only $45 / month, and also unlimited. But there is a catch – unlimited is actually limited. If you start using too much data, you WILL be cut off, and will loose your prepaid time, and they will disable your sim card / phone from working on their virtual network. Read fine print to understand the details of unlimited “web browsing” (that is no tethering, no downloading, no youtube). In a nutshell – Straight Talk will cut off heavy data users after about 2-3 GB in one month, and if you are not cut off right away, there is always that chance. If you use mobile web moderately, you are safe. I will explain this in details, in my next article.

By contrast – T-Mo give you 5GB of full speed data (up-to 42Mbps, which is comparable with LTE speeds), and even if you go over 5GB, they will throttle your speed to 2G – not cut you off or charge you extra.

If you are a business user – consider Nokia Windows phone or their new HTC One S Android phone, or even other (older) Android devices that are still very much fast and powerful – eg. HTC Amaze 4G or Galaxy S2.

Walk the walk:

Well – i’m not just talking about this – I will be getting an Galaxy Note from AT&T and porting it to T-Mobile 4G network as soon as the bugs and data speeds are ironed out by XDA devs who hacked AT&T Galaxy Note modem to work on T-Mobile 4G 1700MHz HSPA+ network.

I will report my finding to you, as soon as I do it.

Written by admin

April 20th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

AT&T Galaxy Note ICS leaked

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Fresh off the rumor mill – an Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3) rom for AT&T Galaxy Note LTE version (i717) has leaked, and is now Rooted, Deodexed, and Zipaligned. Any band all bloatware (AT&T just loves to fill up their phones with useles and NON-removable apps) is still there, but you can sure expect these to be removed very soon – as soon as dev get some time to clean it up. Remember – this has just leaks a few hours ago.

image of AT&T Galaxy Note ICS leaked rom - app drawerimage of AT&T Galaxy Note ICS leaked rom - home screenImage of AT&T Galaxy Note ICS leaked rom

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Besides all the good stuff that very talented devs will do to this rom in coming days, this actual rom is already flashable with CWM (ClockWorkMod recovery), which will make it easy to do for anyone who has already rooted their i717 Note.

Another great news is that this ICS rom already has a flashable modem / radio which will allow your AT&T Galaxy Note to work on T-Mobile 4G HSPA+ network (which we reported back in March).

There is a number of CWM flashable files already available on XDA-developers. Links to ROM and T-Mobile modem files download and installation instructions, are at the end of this article.

AT&T Galaxy Note (i717) ICS rom compared to international Note (n7000)

The good news for i717 owners, is that this is an almost OFFICIAL AT&T rom – not the Chinese ICS leak for Galaxy Note n7000, which came out almost a month ago, and is still very much unusable as a daily rom.

I anticipate this Ice Cream Sandwich rom for Galaxy Note to be very stable. I assume it is almost ready for OTA update, and will be released soon after Samsung officially releases ICS for Galaxy Note N7000.

Most n7000 ICS roms are very unstable due to multiple bug, force closes, freezing, random rebooting (which I experienced with MIUI beta rom on my Galaxy Note n7000), etc.

Read my MIUI for Galaxy Note n7000 review, to see what it looks like, and for a full list of bugs that come with it.

Reference info, Rom and Modem files download:

ICS rom for AT&T Galaxy Note:

i717 ICS modem files for T-Mobile: