Podcast 5 – June 22 2016

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Podcast 2 – June 1 2016

The latest PowerUP Online Podcast is now up!  We apologize for the audio issues this week – we had an issue during the recording process we didn’t realize until after the recording was completed.  We have taken measures to ensure better audio quality in the future.

Experiencing Nokia’s Lumia Icon

Q9cI will never shy away from the fact that I’m a Microsoft fanboy.  My home is well equipped with a number of devices that are powered by Microsoft software.  My first smartphone was the Motorola Moto Q9c.  While Windows Mobile may not have been the best of mobile phone operating systems, it supplied me with what I needed in my pocket:  Microsoft Office.  The reason I’ve stayed so dedicated to Microsoft’s mobile platform even in its more bloated iterations was the fact that I had Microsoft Word with me wherever I went.  As a writer, this was more important than any number of apps could ever be – syncing my documents to the cloud back before OneDrive was even SkyDrive (back in those days, your phone synced up with “Microsoft MyPhone” and Office Online was known as “Office Live”).

Thankfully, Microsoft has moved miles beyond what they were doing with Windows Mobile with the launch of the Windows Phone operating system.  Their partnership with Nokia has also helped to reinvent their image in the portable market by giving consumers highly durable, yet sleek mobile phones made by one of the most recognizable names in the cellphone world.  While Windows Phone 7 may not have set them up as an industry leader, it was a necessary step in providing their best mobile operating system yet, 2012’s Windows Phone 8.  Built on the same kernel running Windows 8 PCs, Windows Phone 8 provides a huge promise for what can be done on mobile phones.

Lumia928Verizon users looking to get a Windows Phone have, until relatively recently, been restricted in the hardware available to them.  While there were Windows Phone devices available, it wasn’t until the Nokia Lumia 928 was released that we really saw a powerful phone running Microsoft’s mobile OS.  The small footprint of Windows Phone 8 made the limited hardware less restricting, but users, understandably, wanted something more.  The 928 didn’t disappoint, either – it was a fast phone with a beautiful display, sleek yet durable design, and excellent imaging capabilities.  Nevertheless, technology can always be better.

Enter the Nokia Lumia Icon.  Originally leaked as the Lumia 929, Verizon’s new flagship Windows Phone is a marvelous piece of portable technology.  Side by side, the phones are almost identical in physical size – turn on the display, though, and you’ll see a huge difference.  The Lumia 928 features a 4.5” AMOLED display at 1280 x 768 resolution and a pixel density of 334 ppi.  An impressive screen and it, inarguably looks gorgeous.  Place it next to the Icon, though, and you’ll be ready for an upgrade.  The Lumia Icon screen is a 5” display with a resolution of 1920 x 1020 and a pixel density of 441 ppi.  That’s a noticeable difference.  Throw in an extra column for pinned apps on the start screen, and you’ll barely believe that they managed to put that all in a body the same size as last year’s 928.

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The display is absolutely gorgeous, too.  Everything I’ve seen on my new screen is vibrant and crisp.  Looking just at messages, the screen’s crispness is a whole new world as even under my closest inspection, it’s difficult to spot those pixelated “jaggies” around curves.  Contrast is also excellent as I’ve noticed a number of apps that have a distinct differentiation between a dark grey and a black that wasn’t nearly as noticeable on my 928.  I don’t doubt that I will at times pull my phone out just to stare at how clear it looks in my hand.

The .5” difference between the Icon and the 928 is immediately noticeable, too, as the display extends closer to the phone’s outer edge reducing the bezel to a thin black border.  Games, videos, and just apps in general look so much better on this larger, higher resolution screen.  That said, I think the thing I like most about my Icon’s larger display is Nokia managed to give me more screen space without bulking up the phone as a whole.

I don’t have large hands, and I don’t have large pockets.  I appreciate the idea behind the “phablet,” but I really don’t like the added bulk or the ridiculousness of sticking an oversized phone to my ear.  I want a portable device to be portable.  The Icon gives me the best of both worlds: I have a powerful phablet with a large, gorgeous display, but it all fits in the palm of my hand – and my pocket!  I, honestly, don’t think I can stress enough how thankful I am to have the option of a powerful phablet without having to handle the bulk of one.

BatteryOn the topic of power, the Lumia Icon is a beast.  I loved my 928 – it was easily the best device I could fit in my pocket up until the moment I left the store with my Icon.  It was fast, the battery was great, the screen was beautiful… but the Icon has shown me just how much better it can get.  Featuring a Snapdragon 800 – a “system on a chip” featuring a 2.2 GHz quad core CPU – along with 2 gigs of RAM, this phone clips right along.  I was surprised to see how much more responsive this phone felt in comparison to the 928 – a phone I felt was substantially fast already.  Opening apps, multitasking, and just simple navigation are hugely improved by how this system outperforms its impressive predecessor.  In spite of the powerful guts of this machine, the Icon boasts an impressive battery life with its 2420 mAh battery.

Another important talking point for the Icon is its 20MP camera.  While Nokia’s own Lumia 1020 is still the king of mobile phone cameras (featuring a 40MP camera), it’s only available through AT&T.  Verizon members looking for an impressive camera on their phone will still be plenty pleased with the Icon’s offering.  The image capture is truly impressive with the camera’s six lenses, and video capture is equally impressive with its crispness and sound quality.  The Icon features 4 microphones and reduces ambient noises to ensure that what you’re trying to record is what you are going to hear.  I haven’t had much opportunity to put the noise cancellation to the test, but the comparison video between the Icon and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is impressive.  I also noticed a huge improvement of zooming while recording videos compared to my 928.  While you will still see that zoom jitter that is seemingly inescapable with cellphone cameras, the Icon is noticeably smoother with zooming during video recording.

Honestly, my only one gripe with the Icon is the lack of support for the Glance screen.  Especially how excited I was to get my notifications on Glance with the Lumia Black update that (finally) hit Verizon.  Glance provides users with a quick look at important information like time and notifications.  Having no support and no words on an update to include Glance support for the Icon is disappointing, but I feel the good outweighs this minor complaint by a large margin.

Nokia never fails to impress with the quality of their devices, and the Icon is no slacker.  It’s an incredibly powerful phablet with a more manageable form factor easily fitting into any hand.  The screen is absolutely gorgeous and coming equipped with Lumia Black gives even more functionality to the Windows Phone OS.  If you’re looking to get a Windows Phone on Verizon, you can’t do better than the Lumia Icon.

Netflix gets The Clone Wars

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Netflix has announced that the animated Star Wars series that originally found life on Cartoon Network (before getting a worthy finale) will be coming to their streaming service.  Additionally, The Clone Wars will also be getting a sixth season on Netflix.  The sixth season was already well into production when the show was canceled after the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm.

The Clone Wars is expected to hit Netflix on March 7.

Neill Blomkamp may direct the Halo pilot

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Neill Blomkamp has a history with Halo:  he was attached as the director of the Peter Jackson produced Halo film that fell apart some years back and he directed the live action Halo 3 promotional film.  He knows the universe and his style is a perfect fit for the Haloverse.  That said, it’s very exciting that Blomkamp may be directing the première episode of the Halo television series that was announced for Xbox One.  While this has yet to be officially confirmed, the thought of a Blomkamp directed episode of the Halo TV series is exciting.

The Walking Dead companion series planned for a 2015 debut

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The Walking Dead is huge.  The TV show is one of the highest rated and most watched series on television and last year’s videogame adaptation by Telltale won several game of the year awards (not the Activision published Survival Instinct that was universally panned).  The comic that spawned all these new properties is still running strong ten years later.  So, with the popularity of the franchise, it’s no surprise that AMC is developing a spin-off of The Walking Dead.

The show is expected to premiere in 2015 and will feature new characters and stories.  Series creator Robert Kirkman will serve as the companion series’ executive producer alongside Gale Ann Hurd and David Alpert.  Kirkman has expressed his excitement for being able to explore new stories in the universe in this new medium.  Whatever is in store with this new series, I’m sure it will deliver.

So… Dryft looks cool

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When I first entered the world of smart phones, I opted for one with a physical keyboard.  The Moto Q may not have been the best phone ever, but it served me well many and many a year ago and I was happy with my choice.  When it came time to upgrade, I went with something with a little more screen space – which meant sacrificing my physical keyboard for a full touch phone.  I decided on the Samsung Omnia II.  The only thing that really disappointed me with my decision was the resistive touch screen, but it was a worthwhile sacrifice because my phone supported Swype.

I can be a heavy texter at times and I write a lot.  So, it was important for me to be able to maximize my typing capabilities on my phone.  Giving up my physical keyboard, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t spending 30 minutes to write a 3 paragraph Word document.  Swype addressed my concerns by allowing me to type around 50 words per minute.  Not quite what I’m capable of on a PC’s keyboard, but substantially more than I can with a standard touch keyboard or even a phone’s physical keyboard.

That said, typing on tablets is still a bit of an issue.  Using default on-screen keyboards, you’re limited to skilled hunt-n-peck typing techniques which really limit your potential.  Sure, Swype is an option on tablets, but it’s not perfect.  Enter Dryft – the solution to all your tablet typing problems.

Dryft is a non-static keyboard for tablets that orients itself based on your hand placement on the screen.  Yep, Dryft allows you to rest your hands on your tablet screen without causing any inputs.  Instead, it utilizes the device’s accelerometer to recognize when you’re actually inputting something.  Resting your hands will cause the keys to form around your hand placement, but it will only recognize keystrokes when you actually tap on the screen.  It’s really cool and promises up to 80 words a minute typing.  This is a great idea and will no doubt do wonders for portable productivity.  Check it out in the video below.

Microsoft Surface announcement coming September 23

Microsoft’s Surface tablets are ready for a refresh and an upcoming announcement tease has September 23 set as the big reveal date. The next models of the Surface tablets will reportedly be called the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2. These devices will be packing a little more horsepower and feature adjustable kick stands. We’ll know more about this when the 23 rolls around, but it’s nice to see that they haven’t abandoned the tablet market.

Microsoft acquires Nokia’s Devices & Services business

Microsoft made a bold business move with acquiring their mobile phone partner Nokia. The deal is worth 7.2 billion dollars and includes Nokia’s mobile phone division and a 10 year contract for Nokia’s patents. Said contract can be extended indefinitely.

 

With Nokia being the biggest and inarguably best provider of Windows Phone devices, the move makes sense for Microsoft. The software giant is currently making a push to encompass a more rounded structure that includes devices and having a division for mobile phone development, especially one as highly regarded as the Nokia brand, under their banner will be a huge win for Microsoft.

 

There will undoubtedly be some changes under the new ownership, but I have faith that Microsoft will help expand the brand and Windows Phone’s market share. As a Nokia phone owner and a Windows Phone user, I’m happy to have some confirmation that I’ll be able to upgrade to a new Nokia phone running my preferred OS when upgrade time rolls around.

 

How do you feel about the Microsoft acquisition?