Free stuff! To celebrate the one-year anniversary, Google is offering three free months of Google Play Music All Access to Chromecast owners. (Although it may only be good for folks who haven’t tried Google music before. Dave had trouble registering.)
WatchESPN is now a Chromecast-supported app. My early-gen Roku box doesn’t get the online ESPN station, so this will become very important during college basketball season.
My husband also had an interesting experience with Chromecast recently when he couldn’t get a Netflix episode of Mythbusters to run smoothly through our Roku. (Yes, we have FiOS, which has had trouble with Netflix quality.) Oddly enough, he found that casting the episode from his Chrome browser (not even from the Chromecast-supported Netflix app) improved quality significantly. I have no idea why this would be, but will experiment further to see what I can find out. (Different CDN handling the traffic??) Continue Reading…
To generate awareness during the San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Unlimited has gone on sale — 99 cents for a single month. While not quite “unlimited”, the subscription grants your mobile devices access a large catalog of digital comics. Having previously used the service over a year, I’d say the iPad provides the best reading experience and I found the content to be Hulu-esque given a rotating and incomplete selection. But, hey, at 99 cents it’s surely worth (another) look! I assume we’ll be on the hook to cancel prior to a recurring $10 monthly fee kicking in… if the value isn’t there. Continue Reading…
Back in 2013, Kwikset released Kevo ($219), a deadbolt created by Unikey that let users lock and unlock their doors with just their phone. This process utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE 4.0) to determine the location of your phone or a keyfob and whether or not it’s inside or outside the door. So far, the release of Kevo has only been compatible with the iPhone 4s and later because of the BTLE requirement. But according to their support page, Android development is currently underway.
Now connected door locks have been around for a while in one form or another, but Kevo was the first to incorporate Bluetooth into a standard looking door lock. There have been others such as Lockitron and Jawbone’s August, but these are still not fully released. I had originally backed Lockitron, but after waiting a year and a half for the thing to ship, I cancelled my order. The August lock is set to ship later this year.
Microsoft’s latest Lumia 930 top-end smartphone is still a Nokia for now, and shows promise as a viable competitor in the flagship smartphone battle with Apple, Samsung, HTC and Sony.
Aluminium meets glass and plastic
The Lumia 930 is another example of Nokia’s legendary hardware build quality. It’s solid, gives the impression it could take a knock or two without issue and feels nice in the hand.
An aluminium band around the outside meets Gorilla Glass on the front and a quality soft touch plastic on the back – in this case bright green. The screen has a sculpted edge that tapers down to the aluminium side, which feels nice to the fingers as they slide across it, but makes me worry that the main screen area could get more easily scratched if the 930 was placed on its screen.
It’s about as different as a black slab smartphone can get, and while I think it looks fresh and interesting not everyone will like the hard aluminium edges and vibrant colour scheme.
The excellent 5in full HD OLED display is vibrant, crisp and bright (although very reflective outdoors making it slightly difficult to read), but makes the 930 a big phone. Those upgrading from an iPhone 5 will feel it’s enormous, but it has a slightly smaller profile than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and other large Android phones.
Weighing 167g it’s also quite heavy compared to all the current crop of competing Android smartphones, 4g heavier than the Sony Xperia Z2, 7g heavier than the HTC One M8, 22g heavier than the Galaxy S5 and 37g heavier than the Google Nexus 5. It’s also heavier than the 139g Lumia 925 that came before it.
The Lumia 930 feels reassuringly weighty, but isn’t too heavy in the hand or pocket, although it might be too big for some.
Camera: 20-megapixel PureView camera, 1MP front-facing camera
Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi (n/ac), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE and GPS
Dimensions: 137 x 71 x 9.8mm
Wireless charging built-in
One of the benefits of Windows Phone is that almost all Windows Phones feel alike in their operation. The Lumia 930 has a powerful processor, but it doesn’t feel any faster or zippier than previous models.
Multitasking is handled with aplomb and no unintentional lag was noticeable anywhere in while using the phone. Some of Windows Phone’s animations take some time to do their thing, making getting into and out of menus take a bit longer than you’d expect, but that is Microsoft’s choice on the software side.
The powerful processor does come into its own when dealing with photos and advanced affects, which are chewed through in record time.
On paper the Lumia 930 has a fairly small 2,420mAh battery compared with its size (the Galaxy S5 has a 2,800mAh cell), but the Windows Phone manages to last a good day in use with lots of email arriving throughout the day, a bit of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as a few short videos and an hour or two of listening to music.
Some other larger smartphones will make it through two days, with most benefiting from more power efficient newer processors, but the Lumia does have built-in Qi wireless charging.
With a wireless charger in the box, there is certainly some joy and convenience to be had just plonking the phone on a pad to charge at night instead of having to scrummage around for a microUSB cable in the dark.
Nokia’s battery-saving mode, which limits the number of apps that can run in the background, helps extend battery life without inhibiting functionality too badly and can be switched on automatically when battery charge is low.
Windows Phone 8.1 – the best yet
The Lumia 930 runs Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone 8.1 software, which is a big step forward to catching up to Android and the iPhone in terms of usability.
The unique cross between app icons and widgets called live tiles are great, showing at-a-glance information. Microsoft has added a proper notifications shade that pulls down from the top of the screen complete with quick settings for turning Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, flight mode and rotation lock on and off.
One particularly nice feature is that the wallpaper on the home screen slides behind the tiles, some of which are transparent giving making them look like little windows. It’s a small thing, but a nice touch.
The majority of the rest of the software works as well as Android or iOS. There aren’t any customisable keyboards, but Microsoft’s built in one is decent. With a lot of apps installed the list of all apps is rather long and tedious to navigate.
Microsoft’s worked hard to bring big-name apps to Windows Phone, and for the most part it has succeeded. Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Evernote Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all there. I missed Pocket (the saved for later app), Marvel Unlimited and Google’s apps like Google Maps and Hangouts.
Microsoft’s apps are solid, including Office and OneDrive (the service formerly known as SkyDrive). Nokia’s Here Maps works well, with decent offline maps too, plus Nokia’s MixRadio, which is about to be spun out into a separate company, is a particular standout.
Games, on the other hand, aren’t up to par with Android or Apple’s iOS. There are some games, but the majority of the good ones aren’t available on Windows Phone yet. Microsoft might sort that out with better Xbox integration, but it hasn’t yet.
The Lumia 930 has the same 20-megapixel “Pureview” camera as the Lumia 1520 with a two-stage shutter button like a compact camera. While not quite as powerful as the 41 megapixel monster on the Lumia 1020, it is still one of the best cameras on a smartphone.
Nokia uses “supersampling” to make a 5MP image from a 20MP sensor – which removes artefacts from images – but also gives users the option of accessing the full image. Low light performance is good aided by optical image stabilisation to prevent shake blur, as is detail, saturation and colour accuracy in good light.
Nokia’s Pro Camera app is great, providing both a simple but intelligent point-and-shoot experience, as well as every option a camera phone photographer is likely to want, all clustered under an intuitive ring interface.
Nokia’s Refocus app also allows users to refocus images after taking them, just like every high-end smartphone seems to do these days.
The Lumia 930 is a high-end smartphone – the top of Microsoft’s current lineup – but costs from around £440. Officially it costs £550 direct from Microsoft, Nokia’s website has multiple listings from resellers for £440, which undercuts quite a lot of the competition including the Sony Xperia Z2, iPhone 5S and HTC One M8.
Verdict: solid for something a bit different
The Lumia 930 is the best Windows Phone yet. It looks as unique as a black slab can, is solidly built and will appeal to those looking for something a bit different. It’s even got an FM radio, which is becoming rarer these days.
Windows Phone 8.1 is the best version of Microsoft’s software to date, catching up on some features while most of the biggest apps are there, unless you’re tied into Google’s services. Some users will miss the games and other less mainstream apps, while you’ll also have to put up with coming third when it comes to app updates.
Overall, the Lumia 930 is a solid phone, but not a remarkable one. Worth buying if you’re looking for something different, but there are better smartphones around for the same amount of money.
Pros: Great camera, wireless charging, 32GB of storage, Nokia apps, solid build
Cons: Lack of games, lack of non-mainstream apps, reflective screen makes outdoor viewing more difficult
The Sling-powered Arris MS4000 media streamer has found its first home(s). Regional cable providers Comporium and Service Electric are now offering up these transcoding boxes to their customers for both in-home and mobile streaming. Ideally, this sort of service is resident within one’s DVR, à la TiVo Roamio or DISH Hopper, but this accessory provides an efficient way to retrofit existing Moxi Whole Home DVR hardware. And, unlike an agnostic retail Slingbox, given tighter MS4000 integration with the source tuners, up to 4 concurrent streams can be broadcast.
I’d assumed all operators would go with a monthly rental, as RCN does with the TiVo Stream, yet Service Electric has decided to provide streaming services via a single flat fee: Continue Reading…
By way of RCN, we’ve learned that both rental and retail TiVo Roamio, Premiere, and Mini hardware will receive a minor update to surface favoritedOpera TV Store apps via a new link (highlighted above) – and, thus, saving you a click. While Opera app selection and speed still leave something to be desired, it’s a decent improvement and far easier to engineer than pulling specific Opera app listings into TiVo’s native menu. But what we really want is an Amazon Instant update…