Making payments with my phone

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I used my Galaxy Nexus phone and Google Wallet application the other day to pay for my meal at McDonald’s. The technology that makes this possible is near field communication (NFC). It was not a perfect experience as the first attempt failed but the second attempt went through. The guy at the counter was a little confused to what i was doing and was even more surprised when my meal was suddenly paid for 🙂

I know that some people have reservations about this technology worrying that bumping into someone can cause a charge against their credit card. The good news is that a pin is required to make payments and in the case of Google Wallet and MasterCard, they have consumer protection to address these concerns.

I look forward to using this technology which already exists at Best Buy, BP Stations, CVS, Home Depot, and McDonald’s among others. There is a good chance that technology will be included in the next iPhone which will really blow up this market. It will be interesting to see how phone manufacturers and carriers handle this technology and try to capture revenue from these technologies.

Gunnar Glasses Review

I visited my optometrist before the end of the year to burn up my remaining flex dollars. After my eye exam and the good news that my vision is still good with no real reason to get prescription glasses, I explained that I have been suffering from headaches at work. Starring at my screen for a good part of the day and having florescent bulbs overhead tweaks my eyes out and I would go home with headaches a few times a week. The doctor told me to ‘hear her out’ and began to explain that there are glasses that were developed for ‘gamers’ who play games for many hours at a time and that they have had good results with professionals with eye strain related to computer use.

The doctor handed me off to a sales person who lead me to a case with a variety of glasses with a yellow tint to them. He began to explain to me a coating that blocks some of the light and how the yellow helps to soften the colors on my computer screen. I decided to pickup a pair figuring that anything was worth a try. I tried on a few pairs of these glasses and settled on the Emissary model. By default I was told that these glasses have half of the power of the lowest reading ‘cheaters’ but that they are also available via prescription as well.

After two weeks of use, I am happy to report that I have not went home with a headache! In fact, I felt a headache coming on during an all day meeting in a room with florescent lighting, I put my new glasses on and avoided it. I now find it interesting that when I take my Gunnars off at work, my screen seems very LOUD to my eyes.

While at the office, I do get plenty of questions about my yellow tinted glasses. Hopefully at least one person that I educate about Gunnars can help themselves avoid headaches.

A review of Verizon’s HTC Rezound

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When I recently switched to Verizon I wanted the yet to be released and long delayed Samsung Galaxy Nexus to be my end state phone but started with the HTC Rezound and a 30 day exchange policy that offered flexibility for acquiring the Nexus at a later time. My two previous devices had been HTC phones, I was very happy with both my EVO and EVO 3D but had always wanted the very vibrant Samsung AMOLED screen technology. After having the Rezound and being very satisfied with it for two weeks, the Nexus finally launched and I was at Best Buy on release day to exchange for my Rezound. The lure of the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, the screen, NFC technology, and speed of the Nexus were very nice but I was experiencing horrible battery life and the signal quality did not seem to be on par with the Rezound. So, I went back to the Rezound after only two days and have not looked back.

Build Quality
The Rezound is a solid phone as I would expect from HTC. It feels very good in my hand and is weighted nicely.

HTC Beats
I looked at the Beats headphones as a bonus item just like I did with the 3D feature on my EVO 3D. After trying them a few times, I have really grown to enjoy having them for listening to music and for conference calls. I was very impressed a few weeks ago in the airport as I was able to walk around a loud and busy concourse without having problems hearing the call because of the way that they act as ear plugs and block out the other noise. The earplug design works well on the airplane and are much more portable than my Panasonic noise cancelling headphones. I would say that the only downfall here is that the Beats equalizer only works on the default HTC music app and not third party music players such as Google Music, Pandora, or Slacker.

Performance
This phone has performed very well. I am not a big gamer but I do watch movies when traveling and this phone never misses a beat no matter what I am doing in the background. I hope that the Rezound performs well once upgraded to Android 4.0. A bonus feature on the Rezound is simultaneous 3G voice and data which will come in handy up at the lake when I need to work. From what I understand, this functionality is pretty limited on Verizon to only the Thunderbolt and Rezound.

HTC Sense
While I am not the biggest HTC Sense launcher fan and favor Launcher Pro and Go Launcher, I do like the contact linking, camera software, and overall integration that HTC Sense offers. The gallery software includes my Flickr account and I can easily browse Facebook albums. The music player has some added functionality of importing album art and offers some music shopping capabilities.

For some reason, Verizon crippled the themes and scenes downloads offered on the EVO 3D. It was fun mixing it up a bit once in a while.

Camera
The 8MP camera on the Rezound is the best that I have used on a phone and was another reason that I went back to the Rezound over the Nexus. The pictures from this device are crisp and the customization that HTC put in their camera software is great. There is a timer mode, panorama shots, full 1080P video recording, and fun effects that can be added to photographs. There is also a feature that allows auto uploading to Facebook or Flickr (for some this will be a duplicate effort when using Google+). The Galaxy Nexus does have zero lag picture taking and the Rezound is not far behind. The pictures snap much faster than either of my EVO’s.

Screen
The screen is full 720P and looks beautiful. Compared to the Nexus, the colors look very natural and do not have the blue hue of the AMOLED screens. The screen can be seen in the sunlight but like any LCD screen, the brightness has to be turned up. Reading text on this device is awesome and there is no problems with pentile technology that plagues the Bionic and RAZR.

Battery Life
As I have done for all of my Android devices, I went out and purchased the extended battery for this phone. This battery is offered by Verizon at 2750 Mah which is not quite double the capacity of the original battery. It does add some bulk to the Rezound but it is a small price to pay to get me through a work day with email, SMS, phone calls, and 4G on full time.

Conclusion
All around, the Rezound it is a great phone that gets me through a day of heavy work and travel, it is reliable, and fun to use. The Beats earbuds are a bonus that I have enjoyed very much. The camera is great for capturing memories and the multimedia performance is wonderful. I really like this phone and think that it is a keeper (until the next great thing comes along). 🙂

My recent switch to Verizon Wireless

After over ten years of being a Sprint customer I have switched to Verizon. I started to sway a couple of months ago I tried out a demo line of a Motorola Droid Bionic and was very impressed with the 4G LTE coverage and speeds. Everywhere that I went that had Verizon coverage in town, I had 4G coverage. Coming from the 2.5Ghz spectrum that Sprint uses for their Wi-Max coverage and lack of building penetration, this was quite a treat.

A few weeks later, I met my brother Stan for some drinks and ran a speed test on his phone and pulled over 25Mbps down which is pretty amazing! I was struggling with the cost increase that a switch from Sprint but was very tempted with the network. Another example is at our family cabin, I have fought with poor coverage for years while this last summer I saw our neighbors making calls and streaming Slacker music on 3G without issue.

Verizon has been extremely agressive in their rollout of their LTE network and says that they will have their existing 3G coverage map completely covered with 4G LTE by the end of 2013. There is speculation that Verizon will then aggressively push for voice over LTE at that time and repurpose the 3G spectrum over time for additional LTE capacity.

This article written over a year ago shows the difference between Verizon’s 4G coverage at that time versus Sprint’s which has not grown much in the Twin Cities over the past year.

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Shown below is the coverage growth over the last few months from early November 2011 through mid December 2011

Most of 2011…

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November 17th growth

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December growth – new markets in Duluth and Rochester

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Verizon is not shy about showing off their coverage difference with Sprint as they have the following sign in stores

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Sprint is working on their Network Vision roll out which is a great plan that leverages partners to help them build out their network. This deployment is supposed to be completed around the end of 2013. The re-purposing of the iDen spectrum will prove to be a great asset to Sprint’s 4G expansion. I am very excited to see what they have to offer at that time because I love their open model and pricing. This post is to no way rip on Sprint. I feel that they are still a great carrier with a very strong pricing advantage and because of that, I will continue to recommend Sprint to people. I have multiple family members on Sprint and I would not try to convince them to switch. For a power user like myself, I found the current 4G footprint too limiting and am paying for it every month with Verizon.

SiriusXM TTR1 Internet Tabletop Radio Review

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For Christmas I recieved the SiriusXM TTR1 Tabletop Internet radio. This radio can play all of SiriusXM’s online content which includes music, talk, comedy, sports, play by play, etc.

Cost
We purchased the TTR1 radio on the SiriusXM site for about $75 on sale which is the lowest that I had seen this model which usually sells for around $119-149.

Sound Quality
Sound quality on this little radio is pretty good for the cost. Since I most often listen to talk radio the sound quality is not always a concern but it is nice to know that it can pump out some quality sounding tunes when I listen to music. I really enjoyed this radio in the living room with Christmas music on and more recently in the bathroom so that I can listen to Opie and Anthony and sports radio in the morning while getting ready for work instead of listening on my phone like I have for the last few years.

Setup and Features
I started setup by entering in our WPA passphrase which was not exactly fun with having to dial through the alphabet. Once I had the wireless connection configured, I was able to enter my SiriusXM credentials and all of the available channels populated in the menus. There is an option for wired Ethernet connections, a line out, and an AUX connection for when you want to use another source for audio. There are also alarm clock capabilities in the TTR1 if someone were to use this device in their bedroom.

Interface
There is a main menu that is driven through a dial that pushes in for confirmation. The dial can be a little clumsy when making choices but then again, it’s not too often that I use the menu because there are ten preset buttons. The present buttons allow for quick access to ten of your favorite channels. When I power on the TTR1 powers on, connects to my wireless, and begins playing my last channel in about 10-12 seconds. The volume button is nice a big and there is a snooze button for the alarm on the top of the radio.

Online Capabilities
One really nice thing about SiriusXM online is now they offer NFL games to be streamed over the Internet and this radio can take advantage of this feature. I hope that as other sports contracts are renewed that they continue this trend as it would have been nice to listen to the Wolves this winter with Rubio and DWill creating some excitement. My Internet streaming on my phone and computer have a short timeout of about 90 minutes and the TTR1 has a much longer timeout value of a few hours (I left it on one day and it did time out after quite some time).

Summary
Overall, this is a solid product that should have a long life as it has software on the device is upgradable and SiriusXM continues to expand on its Internet radio lineup like the SportsCenter channel among others due to capacity issues through their satellite services. I look forward to using the TTR1 at home and when camping while using my new Verizon phone as a hotspot 🙂