Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Watch Out Again! A Sony SmartWatch 2 Review (SW2)

I had gotten the original SmartWatch when it first came out, it was fun. And I really liked it. It was a nice toy to have, and I actually ended up using it more often than I thought I would. But there was still a lot to be desired. Battery life was only a day if you wanted the display on all the time, and the watch itself wasn't finished as nicely as I would've wanted.

Of course, I upgraded to the SW2 (SmartWatch2) when it came out and it's a significant improvement over the previous version. A note, it is nearly twice the price. But at about P7,900 (about US$175) for the metal strap one (get the metal strap, looks way better than the silicone one) it's not ridiculously expensive.

Remote camera, Walkman, Calendar, Phone (You can answer/reject by remote. The watch itself doesn't take the call), SMS (I'm finding this more useful now that you can have several preset replies.) Facebook and Twitter are some of the default apps provided by Sony. The other apps I find useful are WatchIt which allows all notifications from your phone to be displayed on your SmartWatch (with limited capabilities) and a small note app.

This isn't a game changer. Nor is it a revolutionary device. Ericsson > Sony Ericsson > and now Sony have had about 5 generations of smart watches already. This is an evolution of an accessory, much like the Bluetooth headset. A nice extension of your mobile device.

Some details:
  • The watch is waterproof, even though Sony only claims "splashproof" maybe to keep people from swimming or diving with it.
  • It works as a standalone watch, unlike its predecessor which only worked when connected to a mobile device.
  • It works with almost any Android device.
  • It works with all previous Sony SmartWatch apps
  • The screen isn't as high-res as Samsung's Gear, but it's decent. The trans-reflective screen was a good choice for battery life and over-all practicality.
  • Under normal to heavy use, you can easily get 2 days on a single charge. One week for light users.
  • The watch display is on all the time, but the backlight only stays on for a few seconds. Currently, there is no way to change this setting to increase or keep the backlight on all the time.
  • Currently there are 10 watch faces available, 3 digital, 5 black analog, and 2 white analog.
  • It only works with ONE device. Bummer, I was hoping to pair both my phone and tablet with it.
  • At the moment, you cannot change the wallpaper. I just want a plain black one, not the Xperia color swirls
  • It has a few built-in apps that work without the phone connected to it, an alarm, timer, and flashlight.
  • You can use any 24mm watch strap as a replacement. It's more difficult to change the strap of this one vs. the previous one which just used a clip (but made the watch body quick thick). This may be better or worse, depending on how often you change straps.

This isn't meant to replace your Rolex, Tag, Omega, Bulgari, or the like. It's a decent, everyday watch that acts as an extension of your Android device. Nothing flashy or geeky looking. Most people don't even realize that it's not a regular watch until I get a notification.

I'm quite happy with this updated accessory. I liked the previous one too, and it's still a good option at almost half the price. This is NOT a must-have gadget. But I'm glad I upgraded. :)

Tech Tip of the Day: GMail Image Settings

Google recently incorporated a new security measure for embedded images in the email you receive. Their system automatically caches the image and displays the cached version. This is an added safety feature for GMail users but may still pose limited exposure for spammers and marketers.

This may not eliminate spam all together but it does make it slightly less convenient for spam or marketing firms to gain your info via embedded images.

Because of this new system, Google has made the default setting of Gmail to display all images. This isn't good, but easily remedied.

Simply go to your Settings in Gmail

Then make sure you select "Ask before displaying external images". And while you're at it, enable "Always use HTTPS" in the browser setting. Save your settings.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sony SmartWatch2 update available!

Great news to Sony SmartWatch2 owners, a new update is available today!

Accessory Version: 1.0.B.3.46
Host Application Version: 1.3.17

New watch faces available, along with a Stopwatch and other improvements!

All-day Calendar bug still present however. :(

**New bug, the official Sony Camera Smart Extension no longer works with my Xperia P or Tablet Z after this update. :( Boo!**

***December 6 update of Camera Smart Extension app fixes bug mentioned above... YAY!!!***

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fits Like A Glove! GreatShield COZY Series Touch Screen Gloves Review

Having tried the really lame Ralph Lauren Touch Gloves last year, I really needed a pair of capacitive gloves this fall in Chicago. Not wanting to spend that much on gloves I won't be using often, I decided to just go with the cheaper knit touch gloves by GreatShield.

Unlike most touch gloves, these are capacitive on all five fingers, not just the index/thumb, or index/middle/thumb. At $12.95 from Amazon, it was quite affordable. These are universal size and will fit most people except kids or people with small hands, or extremely large ones.

Although these are just for fall, these are quite handy and cheap enough to have if you've ever needed to use your phone or tablet with gloves on. Although I'd rather that most manufacturers start adopting glove tech like Sony's Xperia Sola.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Cradle Review. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z Cradle Review

I'm a fan of official stands and cradles. I wish more manufacturers would at least offer them as official accessories.

Since I purchased my Xperia Tablet Z, I wanted a nice way to display it at home instead of just laying on a table with the charging cable dangling out. So I waited (and waited) for Sony PH to release it. But being as late as they are, I decided to get it from (although there are several gray market vendors that carry it now for about the same price)

Initial impression are good. I like the fact that the stand is fully adjustable, and not just a few select angles. Charging is much quicker and less prone to damaging the USB charging cover on the tablet itself. Although the charging port on the cradle is at an odd angle and location, I was expecting it to be facing the rear, instead it's hidden behind the stand and facing off to one side. Odd, but no big deal.

Guide rails are smooth and makes inserting the tablet into place very quick and easy. No issues or problems sliding it in. It also triggers a SmartConnect action as it is recognized as a Sony Smart Accessory so you can have it trigger an action upon docking. The default action is to launch the DayDream app which is like a screensaver.

Two shortcomings though, one is that there is NO CHARGER INCLUDED with the dock, as you are supposed to use your existing charger. Not that big a deal considering it isn't expensive, but it would've been nice to at least have a long micro USB cable included. Two, there is no audio/HDMI out. This would've added significant cost to the dock, but it would be a nice option. I hate having other cables connected and was hoping I could plug everything to the dock instead. I know there are Bluetooth and Miracast options but I do prefer hardwired connections when possible.

If you like displaying your tablet at home or at work, this is a very nice accessory. Charging speed is quite improved (even using your existing charger) and offers nice viewing angles for both typing text and watching videos.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sony Xperia Tablet Z 4.2.2 Update **Updated Aug 9, 2013**

Sony seems to be very diligent with updates now. Something a lot of us Sony/Sony Ericsson fans got burned with before. If Sony wants to stay relevant in the mobile market, they're moving in the right direction.

The latest update is with their flagship Xperia Tablet Z. Bringing a 4.2.2 update to the SGP321 (LTE) model. WiFi models should follow shortly.

The notification bar is now on top w/ the soft keys now centered. I found them quite useful on the side but not big deal with the new layout. The pattern lockscreen wallpaper can now be changed and has added widget support when locked.

The remote/shortcut was removed in place of the app switch/small apps menu found on the Xperia Z
Small Apps
New File Transfer app 
File Transfer App
 New Daydream setting for dock/charging behavior
Daydream setting
New user info page with "Add user" 
User info page
 Google Search Bluetooth headset setting
Google Now Bluetooth setting
New WiFi power saving setting
New WiFi Power Setting
 New security features and settings
New Security Settings
 New Xperia Care/myXperia menu
Xperia Care

Xperia Care

And I've also noticed the screen sensitivity has been adjusted. I used to have problems with random touches when my tablet was being charged. I still get them, but they are a lot less frequent now since the update.

Developer Options seems to have been removed from the Settings menu as well. Quite a shame since I adjusted my animation settings from there all the time. But not a big deal.

I've been very happy with my Tablet Z. It has now taken over almost all the tasks of my Macbook Pro save for the Adobe Suite tasks.

This update was initially reported a few days ago on Xperia Blog. It just rolled out in the Philippines today. Is it available already in your country?

**Update Aug 09, 2013**
Just discovered that you can now change the toggle switches in the notification bar. Settings are under the Display Settings.

**Update Aug 12, 2013**

Two of my apps have developed glitches since the 4.2.2 update:
-PowerAmp (Themes no longer work)
-Talking Calendar (App works in background but can't open app to change settings)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

No Such Thing As Too Much Speed (Globe vs Smart LTE)

When I got my Xperia Tablet Z, it was specifically to load it up with an LTE SIM so I wouldn't have to tether it off my phone anymore. As useful as it was, tethering is just a waste of battery life.

There are 2 major telcos in the Philippines, Smart and Globe. I've been a Globe subscriber ever since and can't switch because of archaic Philippine policies on number portability (namely there is none). But since this is a data-only need, I could easily get a second SIM for my data needs on the device I use more often.

Upgrading my Globe line for LTE was quite easy, a quick visit to a Globe center and Php20 to upgrade the physical SIM to their LTE SIM and an hour later, I was online again.

I did an initial Speedtest in Fort Bonifacio Global City just to check things out.

Not too bad. Nothing great for LTE. At 7.35Mbps DL that's about the same as 3G speeds in Singapore. I'm still satisfied. And it didn't cost me anything extra over the Php20 SIM anyway, so it is worth the upgrade.

This was just a preliminary Speedtest. And since this is cellular tech, signal quality and speed will change DRASTICALLY with position and location.

Simply moving my tablet closer to one side of the window increases speed. So YMMV.

Now, my Smart SIM took longer. They were out of stock in 3 Smart Centers that I went to. But thanks to a friend in the company, I got one a few days later. And now the test. Test was done from the same area, looking for the best LTE signal strength.

Both tests were done while connected to each provider's respective servers so they do not reflect actual usage, but rather local loop speeds only. I used my tablet for both tests.

But so far, at 2x the download speed and nearly 4x the upload speed, Smart is the clear winner hands down.

Cost? Both providers currently offer LTE at Php995/30 days, currently no data cap as an introductory offer but hopefully both will keep it this way.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tablet War Z (Sony Xperia Tablet Z - First Impressions)

Sony seems to be on a roll the past year. With the release of their "Z" line it includes the following smartphones:
ZU (Z Ultra - recently announced)

Their current flagship in their tablet line, the Xperia Tablet Z. An impressive piece of design. Now the specs are equally impressive, but the first thing that grabs you is the jet-black glossy screen. Something about it just draws you in. Reminiscent of Sony's Bravia TV line, it commands attention.

The next thing you notice is how thin the thing is. Now most of you, have read the past reviews as this tablet has been out in other countries for several weeks now. But it's something else when you actually hold it. It's THIN. Just as a point of reference, the current iPad is 9.4mm thick. The Xperia Tablet Z is 6.9mm thin. "It's about 27% thinner!" To paraphrase a certain Apple Design Chief w/ a British accent.

Not only has Sony managed to slice this tablet thinner than the rest, it gave it a very under appreciated feature. An IP water/dustproof rating! Which basically means you can get this thing wet and it won't complain. Up to 1m under fresh water for 30 min. Take note, that's FRESH water. Beach goers, the salt water won't damage the internal circuitry, but it will corrode the external contacts and may scratch the screen. If you happen to accidentally get your tablet wet with sea water, wash it down with fresh water ASAP.


I think the cover flaps are the most annoying part, but necessary to maintain the waterproof nature and have expansion slots (SIM, micro SD). But was a SIM tray really unnecessary?!?! WTF?!?!

This is one beautifully designed machine. What I like about both Apple and Sony is that they both pay attention to the overall design of their devices. Without looking like each other! Both the iPad and Tablet Z have a very Zen look, but are quite distinct from each other. I'd never mistake a Tablet Z for an iPad. (And vice versa)

In case you didn't notice from the photos, my UI doesn't look like Sony's UI. It's not. Although Sony does the least objectionable modifications to Android (Other manufacturers are just ruining Android with their horribly coded skins) it still causes slight lagging. I've been on Apex since my X10 Mini Pro days and have found it to be a very good launcher. Now, don't get me wrong, Sony's Home Launcher isn't bad. And it actually has a few advantages. The Walkman and Weather widgets of Sony don't work on anything else. So if you like those widgets, you may want to stick with Sony's UI instead. But I prefer designing my own UI layout, so I opt to use a 3rd party Home screen.

LTE will be dependent on your provider, but so far, it's pretty good. That will be for another review when I compare the local providers.

The screen is very nice. Viewing photos and videos is very pleasant. Contrast is very good and viewing angles are decent. Sound is moderately loud, has a gimmicky "Surround" mode which makes music and movie effects sound like their coming from outside the tablet (neat but weakens the audio, nice in a quiet room). Camera is quite good. Nothing extraordinary about it over other Sony Xperia Exmor cameras though. Video playback is nice and clear. The Full HD screen does make 1080p videos look amazing. The Mobile Bravia Engine 2 gives it a slight edge. (Nothing drastic, but enough to make videos look just a little bit better)

So, what are my initial impressions? This is one excellent tablet. It has the right balance of power and design. Quite in line with Sony's "OmniBalance" design ethos. This is a very good come back product for Sony. And worthy of the "Z" flagship designation. That's it for my initial review. I'll be going in depth with this tablet in the days to come. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for more technology tips and news!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flickr Gives Everyone 1TB for FREE!

Finally, a reason to keep your Yahoo! account alive!
Flickr is giving everyone 1TB of online photo space!

Head on over to and sign up,
or sign in with your Yahoo account
(I can't believe mine is still active)

Friday, April 26, 2013

TED Talks : 10 Tech Time Saving Tips

TED is one of my favorite sites. Here are a few tech tips for everyone. Quite useful, I might actually start making tech-tip videos like this as well...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

App of the Day: FaceBook Messenger (Chat Head)

Facebook has added a new feature to its mobile app called Chat Head. Available when the Messenger add-on is installed, it allows the chat icon of the person you're having a conversation with to be visible at all times. Quite handy if you use Facebook chat a lot as it eliminates a few steps to get to a chat window via the Notification Bar.

The little circle with your contact's profile photo can be left on your home screen at all times for easy access or if you long press, an "x" will appear at the bottom of your screen and you can close the chat window. This does not delete the conversation, it only closes the open window.

You may also reposition the chat circles around the edge of your screen to a more convenient location.

Not a big deal but it's a neat feature if you use Facebook chat often.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sony SmartWatch Update

Sony's SmartWatch just got an update! The latest update cleans up the UI and adds new clocks to choose from!

I think this is long overdue. I use my SmartWatch quite often, and I prefer the look of an analog watch. The old clock stayed on, and drained the watch battery in less than a day. The battery-efficient digital watch would extend the battery life to 3-4 days, but I wasn't fond of the style.

The new clocks offer a good compromise, and my current setting is the Motion clock which turns the watch on when you flip it towards you, and shuts it off just a few seconds after.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Past Tech Gospels

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