Galaxy Nexus – Best Phone Ever?


Ever since I got rid of my iPhone and moved farther away from iTunes and the whole Apple ecosystem, I’ve tried quite a few different devices. Because I was funding my transition from device to device out of my own pocket, it hasn’t been a fast or cheap adventure. As an AT&T customer since the early 2000’s, I’ve fulfilled my fair share of contracts and purchased many subsidized phones. Today, I couldn’t be less interested in 2-year contracts and cheap upgrade prices. Enter the Galaxy Nexus…

iPhone users are quick to point out that while Android devices do have very similar functionality, the Android landscape is very complex. For the most part, they are correct. Here you have Google handing out a free operating system and a plethora of manufacturers waiting to destroy it. By “destroy”, I simply mean that they decide to add their own software which sits[pullquote_right]A 2-year contract carries over more than your promise to stay onboard with just cell service.[/pullquote_right]
on top of Android like a heavy fog in a city park. In most cases, this extra software adds a great deal of functionality that jives perfectly with the physical features of the phone. For the most part, the lines between Android and the add-ons are blurred, but once you pick up a Samsung device and compare it to an HTC device and then compare it again to a Motorola device, you start to feel like you’re holding three very distinct Android versions. In fact, you’re probably looking at the same version, but aren’t used to seeing the vast differences between manufacturer-skinned Android software. On top of this, you have the carriers adding their own software, network logos and other features all while blocking certain apps and hardware functions. This is simply unfair marketing.

Bloatware Abounds

For example, Google Wallet is a really sick piece of software that uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow you to pay for products at supporting retailers simply by choosing a digitally saved copy of your credit card information on your phone and touching the phone to the receiver at the register. This is a perfect marriage between hardware and software, but AT&T and Verizon block the app from being used on all their Android devices!! Why?! Because they are in a joint venture with T-Mobile to create a competing service called ISIS that does the same thing. The problem I have with this is what if I prefer to trust Google with my account information or maybe I like their software better…why can’t I choose what service to use? Apparently, the carriers feel that a 2-year contract carries over more than your promise to stay onboard with just cell service.

Another example of unfair marketing is how AT&T adds their versions of maps, navigation/GPS services and other software that is completely un-removable from the device. Granted, I don’t have to use them if I choose, but why can’t I remove them from MY device?! They just have to sit there taking up space. It doesn’t even end there…AT&T’s partnership with Yellow Pages has placed a permanent entry into my contacts list for the Yellow Pages directory service! It’s at the top of the list and cannot be renamed, deleted or moved.

Lastly, getting the latest Android updates are a nightmare! Because of all this extra software, the Android updates have to come down from Google, get approved and tweaked by the manufacturer, then sent over for the same process at the carriers. The entire process adds months and months onto the expected release time.  So while all the iPhone users are getting their updates on the same day, the Android users are all using different versions for a very long time.

But I digress. Wasn’t I supposed to be chatting about the Galaxy Nexus?!

Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy NexusOk, so the Galaxy Nexus is a Samsung device that is part of Google’s Nexus program. If you’re unfamiliar with it, WikiPedia has a nice spread about it, but I’ll summarize here. Google contracts with a hardware manufacturer to make a device worthy of a pure Android experience. Up until recently, this program has selected one manufacturer to make one device that is void of any software tweaks and hacks. The manufacturer is only allowed to make the hardware and cannot touch the software.

The Nexus phone came out last November and was only available on Verizon. I have to say that this single device almost made me switch to Verizon, but I stayed on AT&T due to my remaining contract. Needless to say, I was excited when I found out that Google began selling an unlocked GSM version on their website. I can’t seem to locate information on when the GSM version began selling, but I hadn’t seen it until about four months ago. The device sells for $349 + tax and comes unlocked and ready to use on any GSM carrier worldwide. I secured a 3-week old one on CraigsList for $300 tax free about a month ago.

I can’t explain it, but there is nothing like a pure Android experience on a phone! Having come from a Galaxy SII Skyrocket, which is technically a better phone spec-wise, I can say without a doubt that the Nexus is the best phone I’ve ever used. I have just two complaints. One, it’s not 4G and two, it’s stuck at 16GB with no SD card slot. However, the HSPA+ speed is very comparable to 4G considering that 4G isn’t even available in a lot of places yet and the memory issue doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

But the best part is that there’s no carrier branding, no locks on Google Wallet and no bloatware to laugh at me as I try unsuccessfully to remove. Also, just the other day I discovered that the built-in wi-fi hotspot tethering feature is not blocked either! Normally, AT&T requires you to upgrade to a tethering data plan before they allow you to hook it to your laptop or tablet. This can set you back $60 per month and remove your unlimited data plan if you’re lucky enough to still have one…like I do. The Nexus simply allows me to turn it on, configure a wireless network and be off and running. AT&T has no way of blocking this because the Nexus is not a device that’s registered on their network. In fact, when I log into my AT&T account manager, it doesn’t even recognize what kind of phone I’m using and that pleases me to no end.

For the first time, I feel like I’m on my own terms and have not fallen victim to whatever biddings AT&T and Samsung would like me to follow. I also love the fact that I can take this phone to another country, install a locally serviced SIM card and have cell service without having to pay international roaming fees. As for those pesky software updates that never seem to come…well the Nexus updates come directly from Google so there’s no more waiting.

All of this freedom comes at a price however. Gone for me are the days of subsidized pricing (but then again, so are the contracts) and it appears my device choices are limited, but that’s ok…I was an iPhone user for many years so I’m used to it. I can’t wait for the Nexus 2.

iPhone 5 is here, but does anyone care?


I know the title sounds vicious and I don’t mean to imply that nobody cares about the iPhone anymore because clearly they do. I’m just asking because it seems to me that Apple has hit a roadblock with their “innovation” ideas. Samsung’s Galaxy S III features technology such as NFC, which allows you to connect automatically to other NFC-capable devices like portable speakers; S-Beam, which allows you to perform data transfers simply by touching your device to another and new motion gestures such as being able to convert a text conversation into a phone call simply by raising the device to your ear. What exactly has Apple improved on iPhone 5 as compared to the iPhone 4S?


From the looks of it, not much. Yes, they finally addressed the size issue that some have been complaining about when comparing an iPhone to just about every Android device. But rather than make the entire phone larger, they simply made it taller. Their reasoning behind this was that a smartphone should be easy to use with just one hand and making a wider phone would limit this. Instead, they’ve added about an inch to the phone’s height which brings the screen size to a total of 4 inches and a 16:9 aspect ratio. This is a 0.5 inch increase over the iPhone 4.

The Retina display remains mostly the same although they claim that the resolution and depth of colors have been improved making the display more vibrant. This is true considering the resolution is now 1136px-by-640px whereas the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 screens were 960px-by-640px.

CameraiPhone 5 camera

The camera has not changed at all on the spec side, but there is apparently a new type of lens that allows sharper and more vibrant images to be taken. I have a feeling the pictures just look better because the screen has been improved! We’ll have to wait and see. They’ve also added better image stabilization and the ability to take still photos while recording a video.

I’ve never been a fan on cell phone cameras other than their convenience and portability, so for me personally the camera specs aren’t usually what I look for on a phone. Besides, the Galaxy S III also has only an 8MP camera. One change with the iPhone 5 is that the front-facing camera now records video in 720p HD and takes 1.2MP photos, while the iPhone 4 only had standard VGA quality.


iPhone is now LTE compatible. This makes iPhone 5 the first true 4G phone even though Apple recently touted the iPhone 4 and 4S as being 4G phones. They were able to pull this off by comparing the actual download speeds of iPhone 4 on the 3G network and a true 4G phone, in which they found that they were comparable.

iPhone 5 also now uses the new nano SIM card which makes this phone no longer compatible with the previous micro SIM cards. What this means is that if you buy this phone from a 3rd party and it doesn’t come with a SIM card, you have to go down to your carrier and pick up a new one. This could cost a fee.

My two cents

First of all, if you want to see the complete comparison between the iPhone 5 and and iPhone 4S, check out Apple’s page. Second, I’m not impressed at all. Yes, it looks great (as most Apple products do) but I’ve gotten out of that club…the club of people that will buy anything with an Apple logo on it. To me, the iPhone 5 isn’t much of an upgrade and I would tell any iPhone owner that there’s no real need to buy this phone…unless of course you’re using an iPhone 3G.

Currently, I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S II and I was waiting on getting the S III to see what Apple was planning on releasing. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m getting the S III.

But if you’re an iPhone fan and love what you see, pre-orders start tomorrow and the phone ships September 21st.

AT&T and Apple Are Officially Unlocking Old iPhones


For years, iPhone owners have been stuck with their devices being network-locked to AT&T even when they’ve fulfilled their contract commitments rendering these devices useless on other GSM networks. That is, until now. Last week, AT&T began unlocking iPhones that are no longer under contract. For years, many users who have upgraded their phones have searched for ways to sell their old iPhone and it is common knowledge that selling an unlocked phone gives it more value on the secondary market.

The problem has been that unless you purchased your iPhone unlocked from Apple (not available until iPhone 4), then you were stuck with illegal software hacks to get the device unlocked. Unlocking an iPhone could easily be done by jailbreaking the software, but this option is not always safe and it certainly voids your warranty.

Official AT&T Unlock

The easiest way to do this is to simply chat with AT&T online! Here are the steps:

  1. Find your IMEI number using one of these four ways:
    1 – Go into Settings –> General –> About.
    2 – Dial *#06#.
    3 – Take your SIM card out and look at the bottom of the tray (iPhone 4 and 4S only).
    4 – Take a look at the bottom of your box…this is assuming you haven’t swapped out your phone at some point in the past.
  2. Head on over to the AT&T chat support page. You will need to log in to your AT&T wireless account.
  3. Begin the chat by asking to unlock your old iPhone.
  4. Verify any account information they ask you for and send your IMEI number.
  5. Wait for 5-7 business days and AT&T will send you an email with instructions on how to perform the unlock.

The email will contain something similar to the following:

iPhone Unlock














This email will come to you once AT&T has authorized your device to be unlocked. I’m not sure what exactly will keep you from getting your phone unlocked, but one of them for sure is if you’re still on contract and have NOT upgraded your device. It’s also not certain whether the steps above will work on older iPhones. An alternative method for unlocking your device is to call customer support at 611 from your current cell phone.

It looks like the restore process will check the Apple and/or AT&T database for an authorized IMEI number and perform the unlock if applicable. There’s nothing easier than that and the best part is that it’s free! I hope everyone finds this information before getting suckered into paying someone to do this for you!

My two cents

My friend upgraded his phone to the 4S and asked me to sell his old iPhone 4. Since this news came out, I decided to get the phone unlocked so I could attract more buyers from all over the world. I just performed the above steps earlier today, so I have yet to see how well this whole process works. However, when I was doing the online chat, I wasn’t presented with any roadblocks, so I hope that is good news.

I’ve heard some people have had to produce receipts for proof of purchase, but I don’t know how AT&T has been handling that. There wasn’t anywhere I saw to upload scans nor was there any information about sending copies in for review. I’m fairly certain that AT&T has as much information as they need simply by punching the IMEI number into their database.

If anyone has completed the unlock process already, please share your experience in the comments below!!

Goodbye iOS, Hello Android


Readers of this site are well versed in my rants and raves about all things Apple—namely the iPhone and its iOS software, but all things come to an end at some point. For me, that point has arrived. I’ve been using an iPhone ever since it came out in 2007 for two reasons. One, because I’ve always been an AT&T customer and two, because it was the only phone at the time that really blurred the lines between computer functions and telephone features. And much like other Apple users (you may call them fanboys or fangirls), I kept using the device. New and faster phones came and went, 3G was added, new features “invented”, competitors failed.

At the time, I was not interested in anything but Apple. I can’t be blamed though…it’s a fact that for a few years there, nothing could touch the iPhone. But today, all that’s changed. [pullquote_right]”I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”[/pullquote_right]While iPhone users will tout that their phone is the greatest in all the land, Android users have fun at pinpointing exactly what it is that their phones can do that iPhones can’t. For the longest time, I was one of the fanboys bitterly defending iPhone to the last breath, but then something just snapped one day… (Continue to my blog)

10 Reasons to switch to Android

Whenever I speak to people about the “switch”, the first thing they say is how much they love iPhone and how they don’t need to switch because iPhone does everything. I expect this because I was once in that camp. However, I’ve come up with 10 reasons that made me want to switch.

  1. Hardware – iOS has one device (counting phones only). You get what they have and that’s it. If you don’t like the look or the specs, too bad. However, Android is on many different devices, so you get to choose what phone you want based on your real life preferences (and your wallet). Just on AT&T alone, there are 21 phones that run Android!
  2. Customizations – With iOS, you’re completely stuck with the general layout of the phone. Of course you can change your background image and some other visuals, but with Android you can have fully functional widgets that are actually useful. You can change fonts and sizes, colors, etc.
  3. Functionality – Both operating systems are great, but Android excels at functionality with things like automation (tell your phone what to do and when to do it),  custom app launchers (used to change how the home screens look and operate), remote control (use your phone through your computer) and let’s not forget that Android can play Flash videos. See more things that iPhone can’t do at LifeHacker.
  4. Multitasking – While both systems offer it, Android manages apps much better. On iOS, you have to double-click the home button and close each app one by one, whereas on Android, there’s a full-featured task manager. You can exit all apps with the click of one button.
  5. Screen size – This is more of a comparison between devices, but almost all Android devices have a larger screen than iPhone. You don’t even notice how small iPhone is until you’ve used an Android device for about 2 days. It’s actually hard to go back!
  6. 4G – Although iPhone 4S appears to be on par with HSPA+ (still not 4G) speeds, it’s not a 4G phone and this is one area where Android devices can really excel. Of course there are 3G Androids available as well, but there aren’t any 4G iPhones as of yet!
  7. Photos – This comparison isn’t between cameras since all devices are relatively equal. However, where Android excels in this area is with image controls. On an Android device, you can find many camera settings that rival those of high-end SLR cameras. These settings can be used before or after taking a photo.
  8. Apps – There was a time where Apple was king of the hill in the app world, but Android has certainly caught up with both quantity and quality of apps and games available. You’d be hardpressed to find an app on Apple that doesn’t have an Android counterpart. That is unless you’re using Instagram.
  9. Storage – With iPhone, you have 3 storage options and must pay dearly for the larger upgrades. On Android devices, you can easily add a microSD card to increase your storage for relatively cheap.
  10. File System – There’s no usable file system on iOS. You can’t create folders to save documents in. You can’t go into the system and make changes to things. In fact, to get anything off your iOS device, you need iTunes and even then, the task can be annoying. On Android, all you need is a USB cable. You can use your Android device as external storage. When combined with software like Dropbox, you don’t even need that USB cable!
[highlight type=”grey”]Just for fun, check out which types of people use iOS and Android![/highlight]

My two cents

In addition to the above list, I’ll say that the main motivating factor for me to switch was seeing how awesome the Android 4.0 software is. Another great feature of Android devices is the ability to install custom ROMs and software that utilize many features that aren’t always available on stock phones. You can customize to the hilt and when you’re done, you will no longer have a cookie-cutter device that looks like everyone else’s. For the first time, the word “customized” won’t mean that you just re-arranged your home screen.

There are naysayers of course who feel that Android was ripped off of iOS in its early days and Steve Jobs was one of them when he said this to biographer Walter Isaacson:

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

So far, I’m about a week into my new Android phone which happens to be a Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket (say that three times fast) and I love everything about it! This will likely get sold as soon as the Galaxy S III is released, but for now it is an amazing little device and super fast. And while iPhone is also a really nice phone, I couldn’t see myself going back to it unless Apple starts releasing 4G iPhones that allow more Android-like features.

Apple OS X Mountain Lion Hits Mac This Summer

Much like Snow Leopard was an incremental update to Leopard, Mountain Lion is expected to add some new features over Lion, but not be a complete makeover. After looking at the limited information we have so far, Mountain Lion proves that Apple is beginning to look more toward their iOS software for inspiration. With the major success of iOS on the iPhone and iPad, Apple has decided to add some features to OS X that will reflect iOS.

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