Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Samsung J7 Pro Review

It's not often that an Android phone can wow me. But this time around, at not-so-steep a price, the Samsung J7 Pro did!

It's a nice Android phone to have at a price that won't break the bank!

Check out my full review at the link below:

Photos shot with an iPhone 7 using the iOS app Hipstamatic

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Moto C Plus

The Motorola C Plus is a budget friendly phone. Yet, don't let the price fool you into thinking that this is not a capable phone. Inside the phone, you will find a quad-core 1.3 GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. Built-in, there's 16GB of storage. But what is most useful for this device, I believe, is the 4000 mAh removable battery! Yes, 4000!!! This phone will go on and on the whole day with some left over power for the next day! And what's more, the battery is removable so you can actually buy a second one and you will virtually never run out of juice!

And speaking of charging, this is the very first smartphone that I reviewed that is charged at the top of the phone. That was a bit disconcerting at the beginning...

There is on board camera and it shoots 8MP stills and 720p HD videos. Of course, a selfy camera is also present. However, the pictures get noisy in low-light situations, though that is to be expected in a budget-friendly phone. The phone can shoot panoramas and HDR photos also. And of course, all your photos will be geotagged.

The phone has a 5-inch display which make watching videos a pleasant experience. The speaker at the back of the phone is loud enough. However, you should not put the phone down while you're watching a video or listening to music because the speaker at the back will be muted.

The phone comes pre-installed with Android 7.0 Nougat. The internal storage can be increased using a micro-SD card of up to 32GB. Of course, the phone can connect via cellular LTE data and via wi-fi.

If you are someone who wants to move from a bar/dumb phone, or if you want to try the Android ecosystem without breaking the bank, or if you want a second phone to complement your main phone, the Moto C Plus is a very good phone to consider. It has most of the bells and whistles of mid-end phones and you won't be spending too much for it.

And, no, there's no reason why this phone shouldn't be your primary phone. :)

The Moto C Plus retails at 6,300 Pesos.

Photos shot with an iPhone 7 using the iOS app Hipstamatic

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Excerpt from My Review of the Fitbit Alta HR on Esquire Philippines

I am a firm believer that everyone wants to be healthy. Yes. Even when we give in to that extra serving on crispy pata or an extra scoop of ice cream, I believe everyone tries to look for the better version of themselves, healthwise. For me, a quantified-self is one way to know how healthy I am and it starts with technology.

The Fitbit Alta HR, I found, can help me towards that path.

Let's break down the science: When you exercise, you put your heart to work. And when it's working hard, your heart becomes a healthier and hardier. Every time you do at least 30 minutes of continuous workout, your heart gets better. You don’t even have to do 5K marathons to get the benefits. Just walking briskly for 30 minutes (yes, brisk window shopping counts) will do wonders for your body. You just have to make sure that your heart beat gets high enough for you to reap the benefits.

To read the rest of my review please click the link below:

Also, here are some more photos!

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Using Cardiogram with the Apple Watch

I overheard this statement while I was in one of the authorized Apple resellers here in Metro Manila:
"What would you need an Apple Watch for if you already have the phone in your hand?"
My first reaction to that statement was anger for the "sheer ignorance of that lady!!!" Then, my emotion shifted to smugness, telling myself that, "Says the one who doesn't have an Apple Watch!" Then, and lastly, I stopped for a moment, took a deep breath and did some introspection... I asked myself, "Why am I really using an Apple Watch for? What is really its use for me aside from being a beautiful piece of ornament?"

So, I dug deep for the answer and I found what I've always wanted from the Apple Watch: to be a fitness tracker and to be, on limited occasions, a notifier.

I’ll discuss the notification part first to get it out of the way… I don't want to be inundated with notifications from different apps. I don't want to be notified about the latest like on my Facebook or Instagram. I don't want to be notified about the latest trending tweet about someone who wants to end the world. Those things can wait - the end of the world can wait, at least for the next two minutes or so... And I've read somewhere that the best middle ground is to make it so that most of the notifications will not show up on the locked screen; don't let likes push through, don't let tweets show, only let emails and texts from assigned VIP call for your attention. Turn off everything except the most necessary.

And I did just that. So, my Apple Watch is not serving as a notifications machine anymore. (Not even my iPhone is serving as a notifications machine now…) So, what am I using it for?

It turned out I stumbled upon that answer a long, long time ago: I use the Apple Watch for fitness-related activities and I discussed that heartily in my review of the Apple Watch found here.

However, relying on the built-in, first party watch app Activity and iOS app Health will not get you anywhere. Yes, closing the rings is fun and all, but when you want to see the details of how your day went, then you are lost. And when you click on one of your workouts, you will only get a summary of your workout and not the finer details, like what your heart rate was, say, 5 minutes into your run, or in the 20th minute, etc. Yes, you can get badges, but you will not be able to see the details of your workout. The same is true for the whole picture: You will be able to see your latest heart rate reading but if you want to see your heart rate five minutes ago, then you will have to dig into the Health app. And it's not intuitive to use the Health app. There's no easy way to look at your health data.

You can't even tell what your resting heart rate is nor your VO2max! Oh, and did you know that the Apple Watch only measures your heart rate when you are not moving? The only other time it measures your heart rate full time is when you are doing a workout...

That is why I find the Fitbit, specifically the Charge 2, still, as one of the best fitness tracker around. It even measures your heart rate 24/7.

However, using a third party app will make the Apple Watch's capability really close to that of the Fitbit app. An example is the Cardiogram app. And best of all, Cardiogram is free!

Yes, one of the best health app in the App Store is free!!!

With this app, you can see a graph of your day. And, of course, a graph is one of the best way to show a summary of data. You can click on the graph and see what the value of your heart rate is for that time. You can expand the graph to see finer details on how your day went.

It even tells you what your resting heart rate is and how your heart performed during your workouts. It tells you where your heart rate zone is when you do exercises, like if you are in the Fat Burn Zone, in the Cardio Zone or in the Peak Zone (the app actually divides the zones into 5: very light, light, moderate, hard and maximum. However, I consider only the last three as the important ones when you work out.)

And how do you enjoy the benefits of using the app in your fitness journey? Well, nothing really. Just wear your watch as much as possible, including when you go to sleep. The app will automatically track your day for you - the Cardiogram app makes the Apple Watch a more compelling fitness tracker!

So, am I saying the Apple Watch is essentially useless without this app? No. I'm saying that the Apple Watch would be much, much better with it!

Would I be parting with my Fitbit because of this? No. As far as fitness is concerned, the Fitbit is still the better all-in-one package - you would need to use several apps for the Apple Watch to mimic what the Fitbit can do on its own. And yes, no app in the iOS App Store can determine your VO2max and how fit you are (or at least the closest approximation...).

So, to that lady who said "What would you need the Apple Watch for if you already have your phone in your hand?" I'd say to her, "for fitness purposes. You will not regret it."

Actually, I'll go one further: get a fitness tracker, anything, any brand; an Apple Watch, a Fitbit, a Garmin, an Android watch. Get something that has a heart rate monitor and you will be able to reap the benefits of owning one. And who knows, one day, it might save your life.

You can download the Cardiogram app here!

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

Friday, July 28, 2017

When You Train for a Marathon, Even for just a 5K One, Train Outdoors!

So, there’s a typhoon right now here in my neck of the Philippines. I can tolerate running in light rain but I am not comfortable running in extreme, typhoon-level rain! So, because the wind is blasting outdoors, I decided to run on a treadmill instead. What I found out was, it was relatively easier to run on a treadmill than running outdoors. I know it should be obvious but I only just realized that the difference is that great!

As proof, I will compare here the two runs that I did, with the help of my Fitbit Alta HR, the first one on a treadmill, while the second one is outdoor on a running path near my place. I generally run outdoors at, for long runs (more than 40 minutes), a speed of around 7 minutes per kilometer. I mostly kept that pace in both of my runs.

In my indoor run, I burned 581 calories and my heart rate had an average of 136 beats per minute. More so, my heart rate zone only briefly went outside the cardio zone. And I didn’t even finish the water bottle that I brought with me even after running 9km.

In my outdoor run, however, I burned 630 calories, had an average heart rate of 156 beats per minute and I was at the peak zone most of my run! The water bottle that I brought was empty even before I finished my 7.6km run!

But of course, it should have been obvious: when outdoors, the terrain changes, there are people (and dogs) you have to veer away from, and you have to contend with the wind. In my last outdoor run, even before the typhoon entered the Philippine area of responsibility, strong winds were already swirling and I had to run against some headwind in some part of my run. I knew indoor running would be different, but, as I've said above, I just didn’t realize that the difference would be this stark!

So, when you train for any marathon distance, at least for me, the best way is to do it outdoors and only run on a treadmill when absolutely necessary.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC Review on the Esquire Philippines website

I wrote about the Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC on Esquire Philippines website.

An excerpt:

"BTNC stands for Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling, and yes, it's exactly as advertised. Even in the noisiest part of the mall, the Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC takes you to a completely different space devoid of outside noise. You don't need to blast your device to full volume just to block out the ambient noise (I swear, noise-cancelling tech will save your auditory senses in the loing run). The negative here is that you'll need a heightened sense of your surroundings—especially when you're walking in public places. Or...well, just take them off if you're mobile. That just spells trouble…"

To read about the full post, please click on the article below:

These Sleek Headphones Will Put You in a Music-Filled Bubble

Also, more photos below!

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scosche MagicMount Pro Vent

It is never a good idea to use your phone, smart or otherwise, while driving. So, it is always a good thing to have your phone mounted. Aside from getting penalized, mounting your phone and using it hands-free can prevent you from being in an accident.

Enter the Scosche MagicMount Pro Vent.

As the name implies, you attach this mount via your AC vent (or in the Philippines, the "aircon" vent). Then, you attach your phone on the mount via a metal plate and some really strong magnets.

There are two metal plates that come in the box: a small one and a big one. Supposedly, the big one should be used for larger smartphones - the phablets ones - and the small plate for the moderately sized phones. But, to tell you the truth, even the small plate is good enough for my iPhone 6s+. The plates have adhesives on one side and what you can do, if you are brave enough, is to stick the plate to your phone directly. As I am not that brave - I saw some people on the internet having a really hard time removing the plate off of their phones - I leave the cover of the adhesive on and just let the plate sit under the iPhone case.

Actually, it's also a good idea to leave the adhesive cover on if you plan to move the plate from one phone to another.

Before I bought this mount, I was worried that the plate might demagnetize my cards, but, after doing a little investigation in stores, I found out that the plate themselves are not magnetized. (Yep, I looked ridiculous in the store when I got two boxes and tried to bring the plates from each box together.) So, yes, your cards are safe even if you bring your wallet next to the Scosche plate on your smartphone. But don't ever, ever bring your wallet next to the mount itself!

And yes, the plates are thin enough that you wouldn't notice it under your smartphone case.

The mount works as advertised. My phone does not fall inside the car and the phone is safely ensconced within reach - if needed. What's more, I can use my phone hands-free to answer calls, choose my music, and navigate around the congested Metro. You can even use the mount to park the business end of your charging cable - no more hunting inside your car for the cable when your phone is running out of juice - which is always!!!

And as an added bonus, you can even use the mount as a phone stand! As long as you don't bring the mount next to your cards or to your spinning 
hard drive! 

A few weeks back there had been a big brouhaha here in the Philippines when the government decided that people who mount their smartphone above the dashboard or on their windshield will be ticketed. (As far as I remember, in New Jersey, you can mount your smartphone above the dashboard but not on your windshield. The Philippine order would have been more strict if it was implemented. Which would have been ridiculous - just take a ride on a Philippine jeepney and you would know...) Good thing cooler, saner heads prevailed. But if the Philippine government decided to go that route again, at least I am already ready.

The Scosche MagicMount Pro Vent is Highly Recommended.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

The All New Nokia 3, 5 and 6 Plus the New Nokia 3310

On June 8, 2017, at Aracama Restaurant at the Fort Strip in BGC, the Finnish mobile phone maker HMD, which currently owns the rights to the Nokia brand, together with the PR outfit The Havas Village, officially launched four new Nokia phones in the Philippines.

The HMD Global officials who attended the launch were James Rutherford, Vice President Asia Pacific, Shannon Mead, Country Manager, Philippines and Singapore, and China Tanchanco, Head of Marketing Philippines.

From left to right: Shannon Mead, China Tanchanco, James Rutherford
The phones that were launched at the said event were the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3, as well as the crowd favorite, and star of the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show in the US, the newly-revamped Nokia 3310. Pricing for the smartphones are 11,990PhP, 9990PhP, 6990PhP and 2490PhP respectively. All phones will be available by the end of the month through partner dealers. 

I was greatly impressed by the quality of the smartphones. They felt solid in the hands, the displays were bright and very clear, and the craftsmanship of each phone was superb. Of the three smartphones, the one that impressed me most as far as feel in the hand is concerned, was the Nokia 3. The polycarbonate back felt really good! But, of course, given a choice, I would pick the 6 in a heartbeat!

Each smartphone will come with Android Nougat and the officials of HMD assured us that when Android O comes out (whatever its name will be), the Nokias 3, 5 and 6 will get this update. They also assured us that the phones will receive monthly security updates.

But of course, the star of the day was the Nokia 3310. HMD made a revised version of the darling of the early aughts! The new 3310 now comes with dual-sim capabilities, a 2-mp camera, 2G data, FM radio, micro SD card slot and the new version of the game Snake!!! What more can I ask for?!?

All in all, I came away impressed. The new phones also come at a more affordable price compared to other Android phones. And with the Nokia brand, I feel that more people will be attracted to these phone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The BeatsX Earphones by Apple - A Review

I was in the market for a new pair of Bluetooth earphones. I am currently using the Jaybirds X2 when I jog and in my day-to-day activities. I also use wired earphones when my X2's battery dies. But with the iPhone 7 and newer models, I think using a wired pair of earphones is looking more and more like a dying proposition.

I am still happy with my Jaybirds X2 but, as with all electronic devices, after two to three years, its battery started to conk out.

I've been reading a lot about how surprisingly great the new Apple AirPods are. However, for some reason, I think Apple has not anticipated the demand for those and, as of this writing, the AirPods are back ordered for up to six weeks! (So much for Apple's legendary streamlined inventory... I can still feel the pain caused by the fact that the Apple Watch Series 2 was back ordered here in the Philippines for several weeks after its official release date in the country...)

Anyway, I would have been willing to wait for the AirPods but one video dissuaded me to: the noise-cancelling aspect of the earphones. You see, I am a big fan of the Apple EarPods, the ones that come in every iPhone and iPod. (I still don't know why Apple doesn't include EarPods in iPads. I am an iPad owner and I listen to it with my EarPods... Also, why isn't the Calculator and Weather app not built into the iPad? Don't iPad users need to use a calculator nor check the weather? I digress...) 

But, there are instances where I don't like using the EarPods, like when I'm in an airplane or when I am in a really noisy environment. There's not enough seal provided by the EarPods to mute outside noise. During those times, I prefer using my Jabra headphones. With that pair, noise is muted and I can listen to my music, or movies, without the need to crank out the volume all the way up.

The same is true with the BeatsX.

With this pair of earphones, the noise of Metro Manila - inside a restaurant or a cafe, or the noise of its traffic congested streets - is greatly muted. With this earphone, I can listen to my music in peace and not be bombarded by someone else's story the next table over. When the BeatsX ran out of battery, I actually sometimes don't remove it from my ears. Even if there is no music piping through the earphones, I still could not completely hear the conversion happening next to me. The noise isolation of this pair is really good!

The BeatsX is the latest ear/headphones that came with Apple's own W1 chip. With this, pairing a new pair of earphones is such a seamless process. Just turn on the Bluetooth antenna in your iOS device, turn on the BeatsX and the earphones will immediately appear on your device! That is amazing!

After this first step of pairing, the BeatsX will appear in all of your devices where you are signed in to your iCloud account.

But, I thought that, with the W1 chip - and, say, you are using an iPhone initially - I thought that, when you stop your music or movie in your iPhone and then switch to your iPad, I thought that, with the W1 chip, the source for the BeatsX would automatically transfer to the iPad. But, no! In the iPad, you need to go to Bluetooth under the Settings app and click on the Connect button. I thought that the BeatsX with the W1 chip would be able to do more...

Oh, well...

I should note that the W1 chip makes the battery of the BeatsX last longer and, also, because of it, the earphones and the iPhone can stay connected over a longer distance than without the chip. But, yes, it still doesn't make jumping from one source to another a seamless process.

And speaking of sound quality... This is my first pair of Beats earphones (the reason for which would be made clear...) and I am blown away by the sound this pair of earphones produce! Please note that I am not an audiophile and I am just basing that statement on whether I like the music produced by the earphone or not. And I like, very much, the sound produced by the BeatsX. The bass is not overpowering as other people have described other Beats products that came before the BeatsX. I don't like overpowering bass, hence my hesitance to own other Beats products! It is great when I listen to rock or hip hop but it is essentially useless when it comes to classical music - something which I listen to every once in a while. The sound produced by the BeatsX is more rounded and the earphones is more flexible in terms of the kind of music you want to listen to.

The BeatsX earphones are connected by a semi-stiff band, which the company calls Flex-Form, that you position across the back of your neck. At the left end of the band, you can find the lightning port: yes, the same cable you use for charging your iPhone, iPad or iPod can also be used to charge the BeatsX! It takes about two hours to completely charge the BeatsX from empty. There is also a quick-charge feature, called Fast Fuel, where charging the earphones for five minutes will give you two hours of battery time. It's a neat feature to have if you are in a hurry to listen to your music.

On the same left end of the semi-stiff band is the remote control: the Play/Pause/Answer button and the volume up and volume down buttons. If you double press the Play/Pause button, you can skip to your next song. Triple pressing the same button will restart your song. A long press of the Play/Pause button will call up Siri.

On the other end of the Flex Form band, you can find the switch to turn the BeatsX on and off.

Inside the box, you get three additional pairs of ear tips and two pairs of ear fins. My ear canals are weird in the sense that, I can use the medium-sized tips, the one that comes pre-installed, but, it turned out my left ear canal is slightly bigger than my right ear canal. So, I need to use the ear fins to make sure that the earphone stay in my left ear!!! (The same is true with the Jaybirds X2.) The large size ear tips, however, is too big for my left ear canal...

(What's more weird is that the EarPods fit my ears perfectly! They don't fall off no matter how much I "bang my head”.)

Finally, build-quality of the BeatsX is great! Everything feels premium in the hand. The only downside to the overall feel of the BeatsX is the case. Yes, it feels nice to the touch but getting the earphones inside is such an ugly task! There is no easy way to put the earphones inside the damn case! The case falls under the heading of (in my categorization) "Come on Apple!!!" I wish they could have just included a zippered case inside the box...

The battery lasts for eight hours and I proved it in several occasions already. And yes, the quick-charge is a boon for consumer tech: five minutes of charging from empty will give you two hours of listening time. I love that!

So, am I regretting not waiting for the AirPods? Heck no! I would still like to listen to it and try it but I am loving the BeatsX right now despite that ugly case.

The BeatsX is Highly Recommended!


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